A Travellerspoint blog

September 2017

STEPPING THROUGH STEPNEY

Exploring a part of east London that was once home to many Jewish immigrants, and is now home to a large Bangladeshi community.

large_STEP_4f_Stepney_City_Farm.jpg

My late father-in-law, an Indian, used to refer to the ‘Stepney’ when talking about motor cars. In India (as well as Bangladesh, Malta, and the USA), a ‘Stepney’ refers to the spare-tire in a car. This use of the word, which shares its name with a part of the East-End of London, refers to screw-on spare wheels that were first manufactured in Stepney Street, Llanelli, South Wales.

Jackfruits in Whitechapel Rd

Jackfruits in Whitechapel Rd

The name ‘Stepney’ is probably derived from that of a Saxon settlement known as ‘Stebba’s Landing’. In the 11th century, Stepney was mostly arable farmland, along with meadows and woods, mainly populated by peasants. At the end of the 16th century, the area began to be urbanised. This exploration is about a part of London, from which the prosperous Stepney family of South Wales originated and which has been home to many immigrants since the 19th century.

Stalls Whitechapel Road

Stalls Whitechapel Road

Emerging from Whitechapel Station, your nose is regaled with the fragrances of curries. Turning east from the station, you cannot miss the bustling street market that faces the Royal London Hospital, and spreads along Whitechapel Road towards Mile End Road. Both roads are parts of a Roman road that led to Colchester. Formerly, this market was popular with the local Jewish community, mostly refugees from Eastern Europe who arrived before WW1. Now, it is mostly used and worked by people of Bangladeshi origin. A good variety of foods, some quite exotic, and clothing can be obtained from the stalls, and, also, from the shops lining the pavement. On a hot humid day, seeing piles of jackfruits and stalls selling jewellery and bangles, you could almost imagine that you were in Bengal.

The Royal London Hospital

The Royal London Hospital

The Royal London Hospital, founded in 1740, moved to its present location in 1757. Its pedimented Georgian neo-classical façade was designed by Boulton Mainwaring (who flourished professionally in the 1750s). Its most famous patient was Joseph Merrick (1862-1890), the so-called ‘Elephant Man’, who suffered from a rare congenital disorder that distorted the growth of his skeleton.

Edward VII Whitechapel Rd

Edward VII Whitechapel Rd

Detail of Edward VII sculpture on Whitechapel Rd

Detail of Edward VII sculpture on Whitechapel Rd

Opposite the hospital, and almost buried amongst the market stalls, there is a sculptural drinking fountain dedicated to King Edward VII. It was erected in 1911 and financed by money donated by “Jewish immigrants of East London”. It was designed by William Silver Frith (1850–1924). Like the sculptures Frith designed for the entrance to 2 Temple Place (near Temple Underground Station), he included details of objects that were considered innovations at the time. The Whitechapel sculptures include a model of a child caressing a toy motor car. The statue was unveiled by a member of the Rothschild banking family (see: http://www.pmsa.org.uk/pmsa-database/2984/). Edward VII, who was on good terms with both the Rothschilds and another Jewish family the Cassels (see: “Edward VII”, by C Hibbert, publ. 2007), was known to have had sympathy with the Jewish people, and to have interceded on their behalf with the Russian Czar (see: Jewish Daily Bulletin 22nd August, 1927).

Working Lads Institute Whitechapel Rd

Working Lads Institute Whitechapel Rd

Working Lads Institute Whitechapel Rd

Working Lads Institute Whitechapel Rd

Number 283 Whitechapel Road currently houses ‘Hut Bazar’, a Bangladeshi fruit shop. Entrances above doorways on both sides of the shop bear the words ‘Lecture Hall’ and ‘Gymnasium’ (and in almost invisible letters below it ‘Swimming Pool’). Look up to the gable, and you will see ‘Working Lads Institute’ in fading letters. This was founded in 1878 by Henry Hill, a city merchant (see: https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/498/detail/). It was aimed at young working men, who wanted to better themselves both physically and intellectually. Hill ran out of money in the 1890s, and this institution was short-lived in Whitechapel.

Old Albion Brewery Whitechapel Rd

Old Albion Brewery Whitechapel Rd

The Blind Beggar Whitechapel Rd

The Blind Beggar Whitechapel Rd

Old bank Whitechapel Rd

Old bank Whitechapel Rd

East of this, is an impressive building that might be mistaken for a palace. It is the former premises of Mann, Crossman, & Pauling Ltd, which is housed in the Albion Brewery, established in 1808. The present buildings were built between 1860 and ’68. The brewery closed in 1979, and was converted into flats in the early 1990s. Its neighbour to the east, The Blind Beggar pub, was re-built in 1894 by the brewery’s engineer Robert Spence. Across the road from this, there is an elegant former bank building (number 234). This housed the ‘London & South Western Bank’. It was built in 1889 by Edward Gabriel, who built other branches in London.

White Hart Mile End Rd

White Hart Mile End Rd

William Booth Mile End Rd

William Booth Mile End Rd

The White Hart Pub at the western end of Mile End Road faces the Blind Beggar across Cambridge Heath Road at the eastern end of Whitechapel Road. Rebuilt in 1900, this pub was already established by 1750. Up until about 1914, its publicans had English-sounding surnames, but between 1914 and 1938, surnames included the foreign-sounding: Sugarman, Kazanoski, and Rosenthal (see: https://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/MileEnd/WhiteHartMERd.shtml). Near the pub, set amongst trees lining the road, there is a fine bust of the tee-totaller William Booth (1829-1912), the founder of the Salvation Army. He founded it on “Mile End Waste”, which was a large open space where Mile End Road widened for a short distance, as it does today. It was frequently used for public meetings.

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green is a charming collection of alms-houses surrounding a rectangular grassy open-space. They were built in 1695 by Trinity House to house sea captains and their widows. According to Pevsner, they are: “… a delightful example of the domestic classical style of the time of Wren.” The two rows of houses are separated by a chapel with a small dome.

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

The alms-houses are separated from number 33 by a low wall that encloses the garden in front of The Tower Hamlets Mission founded in 1870 by Frederick Charrington (1850-1936), son of the brewer. Established to help the needy, it now serves to help those with alcohol- or drug-abuse problems. The windowless western wall of number 33 is covered with an enormous mural, the Mile End Mural, painted by Mychael Barratt in 2011 in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. Amongst the many characters depicted on the mural, you may notice Lenin, Samuel Pepys, Frederik Charrington, Queen Elizabeth II, and Mahatma Gandhi. The latter stayed at nearby Kingsley Hall (on Powis Road), when he visited London in 1931 (see: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2015/09/10/mychael-barratts-mile-end-mural/).

Mychael Barratt mural Mile End Rd

Mychael Barratt mural Mile End Rd

William and Catherine Booth Mile End Road

William and Catherine Booth Mile End Road

Further along Mile End Road, there is a statue of William Booth gesturing towards another one depicting his wife Catherine. Along to the east of them, there is a metal bust of Edward VII, greening with oxidation. Like the one already described, it was also erected in 1911. This one, its plinth bearing a quote from John Milton, was erected by some freemasons from East London. The King was Grandmaster of the English Freemasons. The quote alludes to his fostering of good relations with France. The so-called ‘Entente Cordiale’ was signed during his reign (see: https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/edward-vii-bust).

Captain Cook. Mile End Rd

Captain Cook. Mile End Rd

81 Mile End Rd

81 Mile End Rd

The site of the home of the explorer Captain James Cook (1728-1779) is almost opposite the bust. His house, number 90, was demolished in the 1950s. The commemorative plaques were put up in 1971. Its neighbours, numbers 82 and 84, look as if they were present when Cook lived nearby. Across the road, there are a few odd-looking contemporary sculptures along the pavement’s edge, including one that looks like a classical pillar sinking beneath the road.

Sunken pillar in Mile End Rd near Genesis cinema

Sunken pillar in Mile End Rd near Genesis cinema

Genesis Cinema Mile End Rd

Genesis Cinema Mile End Rd

Mosque 91 Mile End Rd

Mosque 91 Mile End Rd

The Genesis Cinema on Mile End Road was designed by William Ridell Glen (1885-1950), and built in 1939 on land that had been the site of places of entertainment (including a music hall and an older, now demolished, cinema) since about 1848. It shows both general release and specialist films. The cinema’s western neighbour is a building that looks like a modified Grecian temple. Now home to the ‘Al-Huda Cultural Centre & Mosque’, this was once a bank. East of Genesis, there is a row of terraced houses built in brick with lovely canopies over their front doors. These are remnants of 18th century London, which survived first WW2, and then the ravishing of property developers.

107 to 111  Mile End Rd

107 to 111 Mile End Rd

4 Stepney Green

4 Stepney Green

Now we enter Stepney Green, and will partly follow a walk described by Rachel Kolsky and Roslyn Rawson in their book “Jewish London” (publ. 2012). The Green begins as a normal street, and then soon widens, running either side of a long narrow strip of parkland, Stepney Green Gardens, planted with lawns and trees.

Stepney Green midline park

Stepney Green midline park

Number 2 has a well-preserved painted wall advert extolling the virtues of ‘Daren Bread’. This type of bread was first baked in about 1875 in Dartford using, it was claimed, unadulterated flour (see: http://paintedsignsandmosaics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/daren-stoke-newington.html). The company was taken over in the early 20th century by Rank’s, who were famous for their ‘Hovis’ bread.

Stepney Green. Dunstan House

Stepney Green. Dunstan House

Staircase leading to Flat 33, Dunstan House

Staircase leading to Flat 33, Dunstan House

Dunstan House, a large red-brick block of flats was built in 1899 by the East End Dwellings Company, whose founders included the philanthropists Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, who also established the nearby Whitechapel Art Gallery and Toynbee Hall. This couple were also responsible for the creation of Hampstead Garden Suburb (see elsewhere). Dunstan House was briefly home to the Russian refugee Afanasy Nikolayevich Matyushenko (1879-1907), who led the rebellion on the battleship Potemkin in 1905. Another revolutionary resident was Rudolph Rocker (1873-1958), a gentile who worked closely with Jewish workers’ and anarchist’s groups. He lived in Flat 33, and met Matyushenko, who he described as a: “good-natured, smiling Russian peasant type; about medium height, and powerfully built.” (see: https://libcom.org/files/Matiushenko,%20Afanasy%20Nikolaevich%201879-1907.pdf).

TB dispensary 35 Stepney Green

TB dispensary 35 Stepney Green

37 Stepney Green

37 Stepney Green

Number 35 Stepney Green once housed a dispensary set up in memory of King Edward VII, who was concerned about making progress in preventing tuberculosis. Its grand neighbour, number 37, was built in 1694, and is the oldest house in Stepney Green. Its residents included East India Company merchants and the Charrington family of brewers. Between 1875 and 1907, it was the ‘Home for Elderly Jews’, and after that it housed municipal offices (see: Financial Times, 24th March 2017). In complete contrast to this, is the ugly Rosalind Green Hall, a youth club which stands on the site of the Stepney Orthodox Synagogue that was badly damaged in WW2.

Stepney Jewish School 1906 Stepney Green

Stepney Jewish School 1906 Stepney Green

Logo in gate of  Stepney Jewish School 1906 Stepney Green

Logo in gate of Stepney Jewish School 1906 Stepney Green

The Stepney Jewish School (founded 1863) used to be housed in the large brick building with some neo-classical features, number 71. It catered mainly for Jewish boys born in England. Now, the building is used for other purposes, but the cast-iron entrance gates bear logos with the letters ‘SJS’ intertwined. The entertainment entrepreneur Bernard Delfont (1909-1994) attended this school. His son was at school with me at The Hall in Belsize Park.

Stepney Green Court

Stepney Green Court

The former school is dwarfed by its southern neighbour Stepney Green Court, a tenement block built in 1896, designed by N S Joseph (once Honorary Architect to the United Synagogue). It was erected by the ‘Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company’ (renamed ‘IDS’ in 1885), which was established by Baron Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1840-1915) to provide housing for the poor, which, in this area, included many Jews. The building has some intricate stucco features above some of its doors and windows.

Clocktower Stepney Green

Clocktower Stepney Green

Montefiore fountain Stepney Green

Montefiore fountain Stepney Green

At the southern end of the Green, there is a triangular grassy area containing a square clock-tower. This was put up in 1913 to commemorate Alderman Stanley Atkinson (1873-1910), a scholarly medical doctor and Justice of the Peace. Near to this, and in poor condition, there is a disused stone drinking fountain surmounted by an obelisk. Dated 1884, this was erected to remember Leonard Montefiore (1853-1879) who “…loved children and was loved by all children”. The short-lived Jewish philanthropist Leonard was born in Kensington. He was a friend of Oscar Wilde when they studied together at Oxford University and, also, a colleague of Samuel Barnett (see above).

Remains of Baptist College Stepney

Remains of Baptist College Stepney

A short distance further south along the Green and hidden amongst weeds and building materials is a white stone neo-gothic arched flanked by short red-brick walls. This is all that remains of Baptist College, a large estate with several buildings built for the strongly Calvinist ‘Particular Baptists’ in 1810. Most of what was once the College is now one of the building sites for the Crossrail project.

St Dunstans and All Saints Stepney

St Dunstans and All Saints Stepney

Turning into Stepney High Street, it is impossible to miss the large gothic Church of St Dunstan and All Saints with is square bell tower. Founded in the 10th century, the present church was erected in the 15th century, and refurbished in the late 19th century. Close to the London Docks, this was once known as the ‘Church of the High Seas’, and flies the red ensign flag from its bell tower.

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm and St Dunstans Church

Stepney City Farm and St Dunstans Church

Nearby, and entered from Stepney Way, is the Stepney City Farm. This is one of a number of ‘city farms’ dotted around London. They offer opportunities for (especially young) Londoners to become acquainted with farm animals without leaving the city. At the Stepney farm, ducks, hens, geese, goats, pigs, rabbits, and donkeys can be seen at close quarters, all within sight of St Dunstans Church. Notices in both English and Bengali exhort visitors to wash their hands before eating or, rather surprisingly in these times of political and sanitary correctness, smoking. There is a shop and an eatery in the farm.

Whitehorse Rd Park

Whitehorse Rd Park

Lady Micos almshouses

Lady Micos almshouses

Returning to the church, walk south-eastwards through its lovely churchyard shaded by trees until you reach White Horse Road. This passes the southern side of the small White Horse Road Park, which contains a perforated egg-shaped sculpture. Lady Mico’s Alms-houses stand at the north end of White Horse Lane. These were established in 1691 by Dame Jane Mico, widow of alderman Sir Samuel Mico (1610-1665), Master of the Company of Mercers and cousin of the composer Richard Mico (1590-1661). The Company of Mercers rebuilt the alms-houses in 1856.

Stepney Meeting Burial Ground

Stepney Meeting Burial Ground

Proceeding south along White Horse Road (known as ‘Cliff Street’ in the 14th to 16th centuries, and urbanised in the 17th), we reach a green space with a few gravestones. This garden is all that remains of the former (non-conformist) Stepney Meeting Burial Ground, Alms-houses, and School. The ‘Stepney Meeting’ was a church founded in 1644 by a group of Puritans. It was the first non-conformist church in East London. The burial ground is one of several non-conformist cemeteries in the east of London, reflecting the history of dissent in the area. The school and alms-houses were destroyed badly in WW2.

Corner Salmon Lane and White Horse Rd

Corner Salmon Lane and White Horse Rd

A large well-restored brick building with two gothic arch shaped windows stands at the corner of Salmon Lane and White Horse Road. Its heavily restored surrounding wall has several carved old stone constituents which display a neo-gothic style. A map surveyed in 1915 marks this as a vicarage. It was next to some “Guardians Offices” (now no longer in existence).

74 and 76 Whitehorse Rd

74 and 76 Whitehorse Rd

74 and 76 Whitehorse Rd

74 and 76 Whitehorse Rd

Further down White Horse Road, numbers 76 and 78, Victorian buildings, have bas-reliefs, depicting a woman wearing a crown and a necklace, high above their street entrances. They were built in the 1890s as ‘Model Dwellings’ by the Jewish builders, the brothers Nathaniel and Ralph Davis (see: http://www.history-pieces.co.uk/Docs/WHITE_HORSE_STREET_1901.pdf). These adjoin a row of houses including numbers 62 to 68, which look like Regency-era constructions, and are officially listed as being worthy of protection.

Southern east side of White Horse Rd

Southern east side of White Horse Rd

Half Moon Theatre White Horse Rd

Half Moon Theatre White Horse Rd

White Horse pub in White Horse Rd

White Horse pub in White Horse Rd

Just before reaching Commercial Road, there is a beautifully renovated neo-classical building that houses the Half Moon Theatre (founded 1972), now a children’s theatre. Between 1862, when it was built, and ’64, this building was the ‘Limehouse District Board of Works Offices’. Opposite the theatre there is an old-fashioned, completely unspoilt, somewhat neglected, east-end pub, the White Horse. This is a good place to sit down, rest your feet, and chat with the locals whilst sipping a drink. When I was there, three elderly men were passing the afternoon drinking a series of cans of beer, the pumps for draught beer having run dry. At this point, you need to decide whether you have had enough, or wish to continue exploring, as described below.

Retrace your steps to the ruined Baptist College, cross Stepney Green, and then head for Rectory Square.

Former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Foundation stone of former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Foundation stone of former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Air raid shelter marking on Former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Air raid shelter marking on Former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

A block of flats built with yellowish bricks, Temple Court, has a white foundation stone dated 1876 with carved letters both in English and in Hebrew scripts. Built as the ‘East London Synagogue’, it was designed by Messrs Davis and Emanuel, who also designed the Stepney Jewish School. The United Synagogue organization built it with the aim of encouraging newly arrived Jewish immigrants to follow Anglo-Jewish traditions, rather than to continue their eastern European practices. In 1997, the synagogue, which had fallen into disuse, was converted into flats. To the east of the building, surrounded by a luxuriant garden, there is a Victorian building called “The Rectory”, which was already built in the 1870s.

Beaumont Square

Beaumont Square

Bangla script in  Beaumont Square

Bangla script in Beaumont Square

Site of former Jewish Maternity Hospital Beaumont Square

Site of former Jewish Maternity Hospital Beaumont Square

From the former synagogue, follow White Horse Lane northwards, and enter Beaumont Square with its attractive central gardens open to the public. Some of the council flats surrounding it have public notices both in English and Bengali. At the north-west corner of the square, there is a modern building, ‘BMI The London Independent Hospital’. This stands on the site of the London Jewish Hospital, which was established to assist the local mainly Yiddish-speaking population (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/londonjewish.html). It functioned between 1919 and 1979. It had kitchens for preparing Kosher food. In 1956, a synagogue designed by Sigmund Freud’s son Ernest (1892-1970) was installed within the hospital. In 1979, the hospital was demolished and replaced by the present establishment.

Alice Model Nursery School Beaumont Grove

Alice Model Nursery School Beaumont Grove

Alice Model Nursery School Beaumont Grove

Alice Model Nursery School Beaumont Grove

Phyylis Gerson House Beaumont Grove

Phyylis Gerson House Beaumont Grove

Alice Model (née Sichel; 1856-1943) was born into a prosperous Hampstead Jewish family. She was a descendant of the 18th century German banker Benedict Goldschmidt. A leader of the Union of Jewish Women, she was a philanthropist known for her work in family welfare. A nursery school in Beaumont Grove is named after her. It is the descendant of a nursery school for children from all backgrounds, which Alice founded nearby in 1901. The present school was opened in 1956. A little to the north of the school, stands the architecturally unexceptional Phyllis Gerson House, which looks more like a factory administration building than what it is: the Stepney Jewish Day Centre. Phyllis (1903-1990) devoted much of her time to running the Stepney Jewish B’nai Brith Girls Club and Settlement. During WW2, whilst a member of the committee of Jewish Relief Abroad, she visited many countries including Albania, where the local population protected Jews from the Nazi invaders.

Stepney Green Station

Stepney Green Station

Half Moon Mile End Road

Half Moon Mile End Road

Islamic education centre Mile End Rd

Islamic education centre Mile End Rd

Beaumont Grove leads back into Mile End Road opposite Stepney Green Station, a low brick building with a tiled roof, which was opened in 1902. East of this, there is the Half Moon pub, which is housed in a brick and stone fronted building that could easily be mistaken for a theatre, which is what it used to be. In 1979, this disused Methodist chapel became the second home of the Half Moon Theatre (see above). A few yards further east, there is an Islamic learning centre, the Mazahirul Uloom London. This is next to the covered entrance to Mile End Place.

Mile End Place

Mile End Place

Mile End Place and trees of Alderney Rd Cemetery

Mile End Place and trees of Alderney Rd Cemetery

Hidden from the main road, the Place contains rows of two-storey homes with picturesque front gardens. This charming domesticated cul-de-sac ends at a high brick wall beyond which the tops of trees can be seen. They are growing in the Alderney Road Cemetery (see below).

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

A few yards east, we reach an elegant four storey brick and stone house set slightly back from the pavement. This is Albert Stern House, which was built in 1912 on a plot that had been previously occupied by a Sephardic Jewish hospital for women that had been established in 1665. Now a home for the aged, this building backs onto the Old (‘Velho’) Portuguese Jewish Cemetery that is completely hidden from the streets surrounding it.

Hidden Jewish cemeteries from the air

Hidden Jewish cemeteries from the air

Alderney Rd Cemetery wall

Alderney Rd Cemetery wall

Alderney Rd Cemetery

Alderney Rd Cemetery

Alderney Rd Cemetery through the letter box flap

Alderney Rd Cemetery through the letter box flap

Retracing our footsteps along Mile End Road, which is about one mile in length, we reach Globe Road, and follow it to Alderney Road. A high blank wall with a single locked door runs along part of this road. Notices by the door read “Please do not feed the foxes” and “Beware guard dogs”. The wall conceals the Alderney Road Cemetery, an Ashkenazi Jewish burial ground used from 1696 until 1852. By peeking through the letter box on the door, I could just manage to see the bases of several upright tombstones typical of Ashkenazi burial practices.

Bancroft Rd Cemetery

Bancroft Rd Cemetery

Bancroft Rd Cemetery

Bancroft Rd Cemetery

Mile End Hospital

Mile End Hospital

There is another Ashkenazi Jewish cemetery in nearby Bancroft Road. This is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence that allows views of the few remaining gravestones still standing. This cemetery was used between 1810 and the 1920s. A few yards south of the cemetery, we reach the buildings of Mile End Hospital. The main building with white stone-trimmed gables was opened as the ‘Mile End Infirmary’ in 1883 on the site of a former ‘workhouse’ (see: https://www.bartshealth.nhs.uk/mile-end-our-history). During WW1, the hospital was used by military authorities, who considerably improved its facilities. In 1930, the hospital, which had 550 beds, was taken over by the London County Council. Since 2012, it has been part of the Barts Health NHS Trust.

Tower Hamlets Local History Library Bancroft Rd

Tower Hamlets Local History Library Bancroft Rd

Neighbouring the hospital grounds, there is a grand building on Bancroft Road with pilasters and round-arched windows, which houses the Tower Hamlets Local History Library. This building began life in 1865 when it was built to house the Vestry Hall (a ‘Vestry’ was the committee responsible for both the secular and ecclesiastical administration of a parish; its ‘Hall’ was a place for local community activities). In 1905, the building became a public library (see: https://www.kocarchitects.com/bancroft-road-library). In 2008, there were plans to sell the library, and to incorporated it with its neighbour Queen Mary’s University (‘QMU’). This would have risked dispersing the library’s valuable collection of archives. Fortunately, the plan was defeated following protests by local people as well as ‘the great and good’.

Bancroft Road joins with Mile End Road after passing beneath The School of Engineering, a part of QMU. Immediately east of this is the former New Peoples Palace.

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

Built in 1937 (architects: Campbell Jones, Sons and Smithers), its white stone façade is decorated with bas-relief sculptures by Eric Gill (1882-1940). These illustrate the kinds of activities that used to be performed within the hall, such as music, drama, and boxing. The Palace, now part of QMU, was built on the site of part of an older ‘Peoples Palace’ that was built between 1886 and 1892 to provide East-enders with “intellectual improvement and rational recreation” (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1393150). It was destroyed by fire in 1931. Inside the entrance to the building there is a large stone memorial to John Thomas Barber Beaumont (1774-1841). This man, an army officer, artist, and a philanthropist, made his fortune in the insurance business. In about 1840, he founded Beaumont Philosophical Institution in Mile End. This was administered by the Beaumont Trust, which later financed the building of the original Peoples Palace. The Trust was also one of the group responsible for the establishment of a forerunner QMU, which became part of the University of London early in the 20th century. In 1934, the college acquired its present name and its charter of incorporation, which was presented by Queen Mary (1867-1953) in person.

Beaumont Monument in  The Peoples Palace

Beaumont Monument in The Peoples Palace

The Queens Building Mile End Rd

The Queens Building Mile End Rd

The former Peoples Palace is next to the Queen’s Building, whose neo-classical facade resembles that of an old-fashioned grand hotel. The façade is all that remains of the first People’s Palace, which was opened by Queen Victoria in 1887. The building was designed by Edward Robert Robson (1836-1917). The free-standing clock tower was built in 1890. Today, the Queen’s Building is used for administration and for teaching.

Silvermans Mile End Rd

Silvermans Mile End Rd

The Bancroft Arms pub (in business by 1844) across the Mile End Road stands next to an elegant brick and stone warehouse belonging to Silvermans. Established at the very end of the 19th century by the Jewish Mr Silverman, this store has been supplying clothing for military and police personnel, as well as other protective and safety equipment, ever since then. The Royal Warrant for supplying footwear to HM Armed Forces is proudly displayed on the warehouse. The firm has a shop close-by on Mile End Road.

large_STEP_7c_Cl..ary_College.jpg caption  Clement Attlee at Qu Mary UbiversityDaniel Mendoza at Qu Mary University

Daniel Mendoza at Qu Mary University

A pathway leads north between the Queen’s Building and buildings east of it, and then right through a space in an old wall, to an open space. This contains a statue of the former Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee (1883-1867), holding a book in his right hand. Behind him to his left, there is a plaque with a bas-relief depicting a boxer. It is attached to the brick wall of the Mile End Library. The boxer being commemorated is David Mendoza (1764-1836). Of Portuguese-Jewish descent, Mendoza was boxing champion of England between 1792 and 1795. After 1795, he diversified his activities, made money and spent it, and died impoverished. One of his great-great-grandsons was the film star Peter Sellers (1925-1980), who hung portraits of the boxer in the backgrounds of some of his films.

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Close to the plaque but on the other side of the building to which it is attached, there is a large rectangular open space containing horizontal gravestones typical of Sephardic Jewish burial practises. This is the Novo (i.e. ‘New’) Cemetery established in about 1733 (on an old orchard) when the nearby Velho cemetery had become filled up. The newer cemetery was closed in 1936 when it too had become fully occupied. In 2012, QMU in conjunction with The Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Congregation preserved the cemetery to make it a place to reflect on the history of the immigrant Jewish people who contributed much to the development of modern London.

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

The cemetery is well-maintained. Some of the stones are cracked, but on most of them it is possible to read the names of the deceased. These include Portuguese surnames such as De Pinto, Fonseca, Lindo, and Carvalho. There are several very small gravestones marking the burial sites of babies or infants. One of these marks the grave of Edmund Julian Sebag-Montefiore, a short-lived member of a prominent Jewish family, which came from Morocco and Italy. A series of oxidised metal screens separates the burial ground from a footpath that runs along its southern edge. Near this, there is a circular hemispherical stone hand-basin with a metal cup attached to it with a chain. This is either a drinking fountain, or, more likely, a place that visitors to the cemetery can wash their hands after visiting it, as prescribed by Jewish tradition.

Mile End Lock

Mile End Lock

Returning from the cemetery to Mile End Road, it is a short walk eastwards to a bridge from which the Regents Canal and its Mile End Lock (8 miles along the canal from Paddington Basin) can be viewed. The canal separates QMU from Mile End Park.

Guardian Angels RC Church Mile End Rd

Guardian Angels RC Church Mile End Rd

Walking further east along the mile End Road, we pass the red brick gothic-style Guardian Angels Roman Catholic Church (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1088079). Opened in 1903, its architect was the Scottish-born Frederick Arthur Walters (1849-1931). He designed over fifty Roman Catholic churches, and was a follower of the architectural ideas of Augustus Pugin, who assisted in the design of the present palace of Westminster.

The Green Bridge Mile End Rd

The Green Bridge Mile End Rd

On The Green Bridge Mile End Rd

On The Green Bridge Mile End Rd

Mile End Park

Mile End Park

The so-called Green Bridge, which is painted yellow, carries the linear (long and thin) Mile End Park over Mile End Road. The name of the bridge, designed by Piers Gough, becomes clear when you are on it. It carries the parkland (lawns and paths) across the busy thoroughfare beneath it. The park is about 1,155 yards in length and at its width varies from 210 yards down to 65 yards. Built on industrial land destroyed by bombing in WW2, and then destined for recreational use, the parkland was only properly developed in about 2000.

Mile End Station from The Green Bridge

Mile End Station from The Green Bridge

From the Green Bridge, Mile End Underground Station (opened in 1902), where this exploration ends, can be seen to the east.

Colmar Close near Alderney Street

Colmar Close near Alderney Street

Walking through Stepney, we follow in the footsteps of the Jewish people, who sought refuge in London following their flight from persecution in Eastern Europe and Russia. Most of the Jews have left the area, many of them having moved out many years ago to leafier suburbs in outer London. Their place has been taken by people, who originated far further east than the Jews: the Bangladeshis. Although there have been people from Bengal in London since the 1870s, a large wave of people from Bangladesh settled in London and other cities in the UK in the 1970s. Many of the London Bangladeshis now live in the Borough of Tower Hamlets that includes the parts of Stepney described above. Like the Jews who have moved from commerce into the professions, the Bangladeshis are following in their footsteps. Who can tell whether, one day, like their Jewish predecessors, they will also leave the East End, and then, one wonders, who will succeed them? Will it be a further wave of immigrants, or, as has happened in formerly impoverished areas like Clerkenwell and Dalston, will it be young professionals seeking an exciting ‘edgy’ lifestyle close to the centre of London?

Sweet shop in  Whitechapel Rd

Sweet shop in Whitechapel Rd

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 08:31 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged jewish bangladesh cemeteries jews bangladeshis stepney tower_hamlets Comments (1)

THE KING OF THE ZULUS STAYED HERE

Once an isolated village separated from the city, London's Kensington is full of surprises

I have lived in Kensington for almost twenty-five years, yet hardly knew its fine history until I walked, with eyes wide open, along the route that I will describe below.

Melbury Road: Tower House: gargoyle

Melbury Road: Tower House: gargoyle

Roque’s map drawn in the early 1740s shows that Kensington was then a small village separated by open country (Hyde Park and the grounds of Kensington Palace from the western edge of London (marked by the present Park Lane). It lay on The Great West Road, a turnpike road leading from the city to Brentford and further west (e.g. Bath and Bristol). Kensington was separated from the next settlement, Hammersmith, by agricultural land with very few buildings.

The name ‘Kensington’ appeared in the Domesday Book as ‘Chenisitum’, which is based on the name of a person who held a manor in Huith (Somerset) during the reign of Edward the Confessor (ruled 1042-1066). During the 17th century, large houses such as Kensington Palace and the now demolished Campden and Holland Houses were established in Kensington and needed people to service and protect them. This and the fact that it was on the busy Great West Road must have influenced the growth and importance of the village. Being close to the ‘Great Wen’ as William Cobbett (1763-1835), a great advocate of the countryside, rudely described London, yet separated from it (as was also Hampstead), Kensington attracted people, including many artists, to live there, especially in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. During the 18th century, reaching Kensington from London, only four miles from the city’s Temple Bar, was not without danger as highwaymen operated in Hyde Park.

Mosaic by Fox schoolkids Church Str Kensington

Mosaic by Fox schoolkids Church Str Kensington

This exploration begins (close to Notting Hill Gate Tube station) at the northern end of Church Street, which in the 1740s led from the Kensington Gravel Pits (now, Notting Hill Gate) that lined the northern edge of Bayswater to the centre of Kensington Village. Today, the road follows the same course as it did in the 18th century. Close to the Post Office and the Old Swan Pub (apparently, Christopher Wren and King William III drunk in one of its earlier reincarnations), there is an alleyway decorated with tiling designed by pupils of the nearby Fox Primary School.

Clementi lived here Kensington Church Str

Clementi lived here Kensington Church Str

Churchill Arms Kensington Church Str

Churchill Arms Kensington Church Str

Just south of some of the numerous antique dealers’ shops that line Church Street, there is an 18th century house where the Italian-born composer Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) lived for many years. Nearby, is the colourfully adorned Churchill Arms pub, which was established in the mid-18th century. It offers Thai food. A tree on the corner of Church Street and Berkeley Gardens is labelled with a plaque stating that it came from Kensington in Maryland (USA) in 1952.

Berkely Gardens

Berkely Gardens

A large brick-built block of flats on Sheffield Terrace is named Campden House. This and Campden House Close, which leads off Hornton Street, are reminders that they were built on the extensive grounds of the former Campden House, which was built about 1612 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol37/pp49-57#h3-0004). An illustration published by The Reverend Lyson in 1795 shows that this was a fine building rivalling places such as Hatfield House. Sadly, it was demolished in about 1900.

Campden House Close

Campden House Close

Sibelius in Gloucester Walk Kensington

Sibelius in Gloucester Walk Kensington

Corner Hornton Str and Holland Str

Corner Hornton Str and Holland Str

Charles Stanford lived here Holland Str

Charles Stanford lived here Holland Str

Corner Hornton and Holland Streets

Corner Hornton and Holland Streets

Just before Hornton Street reaches the Town Hall and Library, it meets Holland Street. A small building on the corner was once the home of the composer Charles Stanford (1852-1924) between 1894 and 1916. Its drain pipe is embellished with two small bas-reliefs of animals. I wonder whether he ever bumped into the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), who lived close by in Gloucester Walk during 1909. Opposite Stanford’s house, stands number 54 Hornton Street, which used to be number 43. The ‘43’ remains on the building, but has been struck out with a line.

Drayson Mews

Drayson Mews

Elephant and Castle Holland Street

Elephant and Castle Holland Street

Gordon Place

Gordon Place

Holland Street is full of treats. Number 37 was home to the lesbian novelist Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943) between 1924 and 1929. It is worth wandering along the picturesque cobbled Drayson Mews before returning to Holland Street. The popular Victorian Elephant and Castle pub is opposite a delightful cul-de-sac Gordon Place, which is overhung with vegetation growing in the gardens lining it. The pub bears a large picture of an elephant with a castle on its back. This closely resembles part of the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers (see: http://www.cutlerslondon.co.uk/company/history/#coat-of-arms).

Old houses, number 12 Holland Street

Old houses, number 12 Holland Street

The artist Walter Crane (1845-1915), who collaborated with William Morris, lived in number 13 Holland Street from 1892 onwards. This house is opposite number 12, the street’s oldest surviving building, which was built about 1730. It was built on the site of a ‘dissenting house’ built in 1725 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol37/pp25-41).

Carmel Court

Carmel Court

Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

The narrow partly covered Carmel Court next to number 12 leads to the south side Catholic Carmelite monastery (Victorian) and its newer Church (built between 1954 to 1959, and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott [1880-1960]). The name of its neighbour on Church Street, Newton Court, recalls that in 1725 the scientist Isaac Newton (1643-1727) lived somewhere close-by (see: http://www.isaacnewton.org.uk/london/Kensington). Returning via Church Street to Holland Street, there is a Lebanese restaurant on the corner. This is housed in what was the Catherine Wheel pub until 2003.

The former Catherine Wheel pub on Kensington Church Street

The former Catherine Wheel pub on Kensington Church Street

St Mary Abbots

St Mary Abbots

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

The lower end of Church Street is dominated by the tall spire of St Mary Abbots Church. The present building, a Victorian gothic structure, was built in the early 1870s to the designs of Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878; grandfather of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott), who died in Kensington. A sort of cloister leads from the war memorial and flower stall at the corner of Church Street to the church’s western entrance. The church’s interior is grand but not exceptional.

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots Gardens

St Mary Abbots Gardens

To the South of the path leading to the church, there is a Victorian gothic school building, part of St Mary Abbotts Primary School. This school was founded nearby in 1645 (see: http://www.sma.rbkc.sch.uk/history-of-the-school.html). In about 1709, it was housed in two buildings on the High Street, where later the old Kensington Town Hall was built (it was demolished in 1982, and replaced by a non-descript newer version on Hornton Street). High on the wall of the Victorian school building, there are two sculptured figures wearing blue clothing, a boy and a girl. These used to face the High Street on the 18th century building. The boy holds a scroll with the words: “I was naked and ye clothed me” (from Matthew in the New Testament). The school continues to thrive today.

Former public library Ken High Str

Former public library Ken High Str

Walk through the peaceful St Mary Abbots Gardens – once a burial ground (and in the 1930s, also the site of a coroner’s court), and you will soon reach a wonderful Victorian gothic/Tudor building on the busy High Street. Faced with red bricks and white stonework, this was built as the local ‘Vestry Hall’ in 1852. It was designed by James Broadbridge. From 1889 to 1960, it housed Kensington Central Library, which is now located in a newer, less decorous, building in Hornton Street. The former Vestry Hall is now home to an Iranian bank. Incidentally, there are many Iranians living in Kensington.

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

Lovers of art-deco architecture need only turn their backs on the old Vestry Hall to behold two perfect examples of that style. They used to house two department stores: Derry and Toms built in 1933; and Barker’s (built in the 1930s). Barker’s took over its rival Derry and Tom’s in 1920. Both replaced older buildings, were designed by Bernard George (1894-1964), and are covered with a great variety of art-deco ornamentations. The Derry and Toms building has a wonderful roof garden,

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

The Kensington Roof Gardens (opened 1938) has a restaurant open to the public. In the early 1970s, the Derry and Toms building briefly housed the then extremely trendy Biba store, the inspiration of Polish-born Barbara Hulanicki. Now, there are various retail stores using the ground floors of these two buildings. The upper floors of Barker’s contain the offices of two newspapers: The Evening Standard, and The Daily Mail. A short street, Derry Street, running between these two buildings leads into Kensington Square.

Kensington Square Gardens

Kensington Square Gardens

With a private garden in its centre, Kensington Square is surrounded by fascinating old buildings (for a history and guide, see: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/atoms/files/Kensington%20Square%20CAPS.pdf). The setting-out and development of the square began in 1685, when it was named ‘Kings Square’ in honour of the ill-fated James II, who had been crowned that year. In those early days, this urban square was surrounded by countryside – gardens and fields (see: “London” by N Pevsner, publ. 1952). With the arrival of the Royal Court at Kensington Palace in the 17th century (King William III, who ruled from 1689 to 1702, suffered from asthma, and needed somewhere where the air did not aggravate his condition – see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol42/pp1-4), the square became one of the most fashionable places to live in England, but this changed when George III (ruled 1760-1820) moved the Court away from Kensington. After 1760, the square was mostly abandoned, and remained unoccupied until the beginning of the 19th century. Nowadays, its desirability as a living place for the well-off has been firmly restored.

Edward Burne Jones lived in Kensington Sq

Edward Burne Jones lived in Kensington Sq

The attractive garden in its centre is adorned with small neo-classical gazebo. The houses surrounding the garden have housed many famous people. Number 40 has a 19th century façade, which conceals an earlier one. It was the home of the pathologist Sir John Simon (1816-1904), a pioneer of public health. Between 1864 and 1867, the painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) lived at number 41, which has Regency features as well as newer upper floors.

11 and 12 Kensington Square

11 and 12 Kensington Square

11 Kensington Sq Mazarin Herring and Talleyrand might have lived here

11 Kensington Sq Mazarin Herring and Talleyrand might have lived here

At the south-east corner of the square, the semi-detached numbers 11 and 12 were built between 1693 and 1702. The attractive shell-shape above the front door of number 11 bears the words: “Duchess of Mazarin 1692-8, Archbishop Herring 1737, Talleyrand 1792-4”. Although it is tempting to believe that these celebrated people lived here, this was probably not the case. The Duchess, a mistress of Charles II, is not thought to have ever lived in the square. Talleyrand (1754-1838) did stay in the square, maybe or maybe not in this house, which was then occupied by a Frenchman, Monsieur Defoeu. As for Herring (1693-1757), he did live in the square but not at number 11. So, whoever put up the wording had a sense of history, but was lacking in accuracy.

Kensington Court Mews

Kensington Court Mews

TS Eliot lived here

TS Eliot lived here

Joan Sims lived here on Thackeray Street

Joan Sims lived here on Thackeray Street

Thackeray Street leads to Kensington Court, where a picturesque courtyard, named Kensington Court Mews, is surrounded by former stables. South of this, its neighbour, a 19th century brick apartment block, Kensington Court Gardens, was the home and place of death of the poet TS Eliot (1888-1965). Returning to the square via Thackeray Street, we pass Esmond Court (named after one of Thackeray’s novels), where the actress, best-known for her roles in the “Carry-On” films, Joan Sims (1930-2001) lived.

John Stuart Mills 18 Kensington Sq

John Stuart Mills 18 Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Heythrop College Kensington Sq

Heythrop College Kensington Sq

The philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) wrote important books on logic and Political Economy while living in number 18 Kensington Square (built in the 1680s) between 1837 and 1851. Close by, the row of old buildings interrupted by a newer building, the Victorian gothic Roman Catholic Maria Assumpta Church, which was built in 1875 to the designs of George Goldie (1828-1887), TG Jackson (1835-1924) and Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912). George Goldie also designed the church’s neighbouring convent buildings, which are now adorned by a ground floor gallery consisting of six large windows and the main entrance door, which was added in the 1920s. The former convent is now the home of the University of London’s Heythrop College. Specialising in the study of philosophy and religion, the college was incorporated into the university in 1971. However, amongst all the university’s constituent colleges, Heythrop goes back the furthest, having been founded by the Jesuits in 1614. Founded in Belgium, it moved to England during the French Revolutionary Wars at the end of the 18th century.

Kensington Sq West side

Kensington Sq West side

30 Kensington Sq Hoare's House

30 Kensington Sq Hoare's House

Hoare's arms on 30 Kensington Square

Hoare's arms on 30 Kensington Square

The west side of the square presents a fine set of facades dating back to when the square was first established. Each of the buildings is of great interest, but the one which caught my attention is number 30, which is adorned with double-headed eagles, a symbol used by, to mention but a few: the Hittites, the Seljuk Turks, the Holy Roman Empire, Mysore State, the Russians, the Serbians, and the Albanians. The bicephalic birds on number 30 relate to none of these, but, instead, to the Land Tax Commissioner Charles Augustus Hoare (see: “A Collection of the Public General Statutes passed in the Sixth and Seventh Year of the Reign … of King William the Fourth 1836”) of the Hoare family of bankers. He bought the house in about 1820, and died in 1862 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol17/pt1/pp72-76).

33 Kensington Sq Mrs Patrick Campbell lived here

33 Kensington Sq Mrs Patrick Campbell lived here

Number 33 was built in the early 1730s. Between 1900 and 1918, the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell (1865-1940), who was born in Kensington, lived there. She is said to have inspired some of the plays written by George Bernard Shaw. From Kensington Square, it is a short walk to High Street Kensington Station, which is entered via a shopping arcade that leads to a covered octagonal entrance area decorated with floral bas-reliefs, suggestive of the era of art-nouveau.

High Street Ken Station

High Street Ken Station

Cafe Nero Wrights Lane

Cafe Nero Wrights Lane

At the corner of Wrights Lane, there is a branch of the Caffe Nero chain, which is housed in a modern, glass-clad narrow wedge-shaped building. Further down Wrights Lane, there is a charming old-fashioned tea shop, The Muffin Man, which serves excellent reasonably priced snacks and light meals. Before reaching this eatery, take a detour to visit Iverna Gardens.

St Sarkis Iverna Gdns

St Sarkis Iverna Gdns

At the southern end of the small square, there is the Armenian Church of St Sarkis, which was built in 1922-23 with money supplied by the Gulbenkian family. Built to resemble typical traditional churches in Armenia, it was designed by Arthur Davis (1878-1951), who was born in, and died in Kensington.

Our Lady of Victories

Our Lady of Victories

Our Lady of Victories

Our Lady of Victories

Mosaics outside  Our Lady of Victories

Mosaics outside Our Lady of Victories

Much of the High Street is occupied by shops housed in unexceptional buildings. To the west of most of these, stands the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Victories. Its entrance screen on the High Street was designed by Joseph Goldie (1882–1953). It served as the entrance to a church that was destroyed by bombing in WW2. The present church was built in 1957, designed by Adrian Gilbert Scott (1882-1963), brother of Sir Giles (see above).

Old Odeon cinema High Str Ken

Old Odeon cinema High Str Ken

Beyond the north end of Earls Court Road, two buildings are currently behind builders’ hoardings. One, the old post-office, will probably be demolished, but the other, an Odeon cinema, is to have its impressive neo-classical art-deco façade preserved, but its interior will be re-built. Originally named the ‘Kensington Kinema’, it was opened in 1926. It was closed in 2015 (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/13801).

Edwardes Square east side

Edwardes Square east side

Scarsdale Tavern Edwardes Sq

Scarsdale Tavern Edwardes Sq

Edwardes Sq Sir William Rothenstein lived here

Edwardes Sq Sir William Rothenstein lived here

Further west, a narrow road leads from the High Street into Edwardes Square. This Georgian square was laid out by a Frenchman, the architect Louis Léon Changeur, between 1811 and 1820, and named after William Edwardes (1777-1852), the 2nd Lord Kensington, who owned the land which it occupies (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol42/pp249-263). At the south-east corner of the square, there is an almost-hidden pub, the Scarsdale Tavern, which was established in 1867. Opposite it, is the two-storey house where the painter and writer Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945) lived between 1899 and 1902. Like so many other London Squares, this one has a centrally located private garden. At its southern edge, there is a neo-classical pavilion, now called ‘The Grecian Temple’, and still used by the head gardener. The garden’s paths were laid out by an Italian artist Agostino Aglio (1777-1857), who, having arrived in the UK in 1803 to assist the architect William Wilkins, lived in the square between 1814 and 1820.

The Grecian Temple Edwardes Sq

The Grecian Temple Edwardes Sq

Edwardes Square Studios

Edwardes Square Studios

Edwardes Sq West side

Edwardes Sq West side

Edwardes Square Studios opposite the Temple was home to artists including Henry Justice Ford and Clifford Bax. Better-known today than these two was the comedian Frankie Howerd (1917-1992), who also lived on the square from 1966 until his death. The north-western corner of the square leads back into the High Street. Immediately west of this, there is a row of three neighbouring Iranian food stores and an Iranian restaurant. The presence of these is symptomatic of the many emigrants from Iran, who have settled in Kensington.

Iranian shops and restaurant Hig Str Ken

Iranian shops and restaurant Hig Str Ken

2 St Mary Abbots Place

2 St Mary Abbots Place

9 St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge

9 St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge

Just west of the Iranian establishments, there is a cul-de-sac called St Mary Abbots Place. The façade of number 2 (part of a building called Warwick Close) is adorned with wooden carvings that have an art-nouveau motif. Above an entrance to number 9, there is a bas-relief of an eagle. Until recently, this building housed a branch of ‘The White Eagle Lodge’, a spiritual organisation founded in Britain in 1936 (see: https://www.whiteagle.org/). At the end of the street, there is a large brick building with a neo-Tudor appearance. This was built for the painter Sir William Llewellyn (1858-1941).

St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge and  Llewellen's brick house

St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge and Llewellen's brick house

St Mary Abbots Place

St Mary Abbots Place

GK Chesterton lived on Warwick Gardens

GK Chesterton lived on Warwick Gardens

At the northern end of Warwick Gardens, a house (number 11) bears a plaque celebrating that the writer GK Chesterton (1874-1936) lived in it. He was born in Kensington.

Column on Warwick Gdns

Column on Warwick Gdns

Column on Warwick Gdns

Column on Warwick Gdns

Opposite the house on an island around which traffic flows, there is a tall pink stone column, surrounded by palms and surmounted by an urn. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. Dated 1904, it was designed by HL Florence, who was President of The Architectural association between 1878 and ’79.

47 Addison Road

47 Addison Road

Olympia from Napier Road

Olympia from Napier Road

The continuation of Warwick Gardens north of the High Street is called ‘Addison Gardens’. The west side of this is lined by some 19th century houses with neo-gothic features. Napier Road leads off Addison towards, but does not reach, the Olympia exhibition halls. At the corner where the two roads meet, there is a large house, number 49 Addison Road.

49 Addison Rd

49 Addison Rd

49 Addison Rd.  W14 Crest of Herbert Schmalz

49 Addison Rd. W14 Crest of Herbert Schmalz

Behind it, and easily visible from Napier Road, this house has an extension with a huge ornately framed north-facing window. Above this, there is the date “1894” and a figure holding an artist’s palate overlaid with the intertwined initials “HS”. And below that, a motto reads in German “Strebe vorwaerts” (i.e. strive ahead). This was the studio built for the pre-Raphaelite painter Herbert Gustave Schmalz (1856-1935), who was a friend of the painters William Holman Hunt and Frederic Leighton (see below).

St Barnabas Addison Road

St Barnabas Addison Road

The delicate-looking 19th century gothic church of St Barnabas stands on Addison Road just north of Melbury Road. This was designed by Lewis Vulliamy (1791-1871), and built by 1829. Prior to its existence, the only parish church in Kensington was St Mary Abbots. St Barnabas was built to serve people living in the new housing that was rapidly covering the land to the west of the centre of Kensington (see: http://www.stbk.org.uk/about-us/#about). It never had a graveyard because by the 1820s sanitary authorities were discouraging the placing of these so close to the centre of London.

Sir Hamo Thornycroft lived here in Melbury Rd

Sir Hamo Thornycroft lived here in Melbury Rd

Melbury Road is lined with grand houses built between 1860 and 1905, some of them containing large artists’ studios. Many well-known artists, members of the ‘Holland Park Circle’, have lived and worked in this street and Holland Park Road that leads off it. A plaque next to a large north facing studio window on number 2 Melbury Road commemorates that English sculptor Hamo Thornycroft (1850-1925) worked here.

8 Melbury Rd

8 Melbury Rd

The large number 9 is in ‘Queen Anne style’, and was built in 1880. Opposite it, number 8, designed by Richard Norman Shaw, with north-facing studios was built for the painter Marcus Stone (1840-1921). In later years, this house, now converted into flats, was from 1951-1971 the home of the film director (who made many films with Emeric Pressburger including “Black Narcissus” and “The Red Shoes”), Michael Powell (1905-1990).

Tower House Melbury Road

Tower House Melbury Road

Tower HouseMelbury Road

Tower HouseMelbury Road

Melbury Road is dominated by a tall circular brick tower topped with a tiled conical roof. This is attached to number 29, the Tower House. It was built between 1875 and ’80 by, and for the use of, the architect William Burges (1827-1881). Architect of Cardiff Castle and Oxford’s Worcester College, he died in Tower House soon after it was built. In the 1960s, this large amazing brick-built mock mediaeval house was abandoned, and damaged by vandals, but it has been restored subsequently. The actor Richard Harris bought it in 1969, and in 1972 it was bought by the Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page, who is keen on the works of Burges and of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Stavordale Lodge Melbury Rd

Stavordale Lodge Melbury Rd

31 Melbury Rd. Sir Luke Fildes lived here

31 Melbury Rd. Sir Luke Fildes lived here

Stavordale Lodge, opposite the Tower, is a complete contrast. This gently curved apartment block was built in 1964. It faces the Tower House’s neighbour, number 31 (‘Woodland House’). Designed by Richard Norman Shaw, who was well-acquainted with the art establishment, in about 1875, this large house was home to the painter and illustrator Luke Fildes (1844-1927). The film director Michael Winner (1935-2013) lived here from 1972 to 2013, and now it is the home of the singer Robbie Williams.

18 Melbury Rd. King Cetshwayo and Holman-Hunt lived here

18 Melbury Rd. King Cetshwayo and Holman-Hunt lived here

18 Melbury Rd. King Cetshwayo and Holman-Hunt lived here

18 Melbury Rd. King Cetshwayo and Holman-Hunt lived here

Woodsford Court, number 14, is built on the site of the home of the Scottish painter Colin Hunter (1841-1904), who lived there from 1877 until his death in a house that was bombed in 1940. Number 18, close-by, was the home, studio, and place of death of, of the pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman-Hunt (1827-1910) from 1903 onwards. Earlier in 1882, this house, built in 1877, hosted a very important guest, King Cetshwayo (Cetshwayo, ka Mpande, c1832-1884), King of the Zulus. After being defeated by the British in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, Cetshwayo was held captive in Cape Town. During his exile, he visited London in 1882:
“On his arrival, 18 Melbury Road … was made more appropriate to his needs and those of his chiefs. The beds, for instance, were reduced to floor level. On waking on 5 August, the ex-king ‘made his way through the various rooms of the house, examining them with curiosity’.
Outside, a huge crowd of people had gathered, eager to see Cetshwayo. The Times described how ‘at times the ex-king would appear for a moment at one of the windows, and he was invariably greeted with cheers’. Cetshwayo himself looked upon the throng ‘as a display of friendly feeling towards him’. By the close of his visit, he had become something of a celebrity.
In an interview given while at Melbury Road, Cetshwayo said that he regarded the war as ‘a calamity’. He had made it clear that the purpose of his visit to England was his restoration to the throne, reasoning that his people wanted him and that there would be another war if he didn’t return. Following a meeting with Gladstone and a visit to Queen Victoria at Osborne House, his reinstatement was agreed.” (see: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/cetshwayo-ka-mpande-king-of-the-zulus-). The British allowed him to return to Zululand in 1883.

47 Melbury Rd

47 Melbury Rd

Robertson Clan crest 47 Melbury Rd

Robertson Clan crest 47 Melbury Rd

Number 47, opposite the King’s lodging, was designed by Robert Dudley Oliver (died 1923, aged 66), a London-based architect, for the painter and playwright Walford Graham Robertson (1866-1948). It contained his studio, which he shared with the Scottish impressionist painter Arthur Melville (1858-1904) from about 1896 until Melville’s death. Above the attractive front door, there is a bas-relief of the coat-of-arms of the Robertson Clan.

South House Holland Park Rd

South House Holland Park Rd

Holland Park Road runs from Melbury Road back to Addison Road. Number 10, South House with annex bearing a prominent Dutch gable, was built in about 1893. It stands on the site of the former farm house of Holland Farm, on whose lands Melbury Road was laid in 1875. The building contained the studio of the Anglo-American portraitist James Jebusa Shannon (1862-1923). The studio and its adjoining residence are now used as two separate dwellings.

Leighton House

Leighton House

The house neighbouring Shannon’s, Leighton House, rivals Tower House in its extraordinariness. It was the home and studio of the painter Frederic Leighton (1830-1896). In 1864, he leased the house in Holland Park Road from Lady Holland. With the help of the architect George Aitchison (1825-1910) he modified it, and was able to occupy it in late 1866. Amongst many additions made by Leighton, the most remarkable is the Arab Hall (1877-79). This Moorish hall was built to accommodate Leighton’s considerable collection of tiles that he had acquired during his visits to the east. The hall also contains carved Damascus latticework and other souvenirs from the Middle East. A gentle fountain adorns the floor of the hall, and adds to its exotic atmosphere. The exterior brickwork of the hall and its tiled dome surmounted by the crescent of Islam reflect the hall’s oriental interior.

Leighton House

Leighton House

The Arab Hall is reason enough to visit Leighton House, but there is more to see. Visitors can wander around some of its rooms, climb up the tile-lined staircase, view the north-facing studio, and enjoy the occasional special exhibition held regularly in the house and the attached Perrin Gallery (designed by Halsey Ricardo [1854-1928], and completed 1929).

Leighton House

Leighton House

Leighton House

Leighton House

Leighton House has a lovely large garden, which is occasionally open to the public. From it, you can get a good view of Leighton’s studio windows framed in Victorian cast-iron. It also contains a long path covered by a leafy trellis and a large sculpture of a ‘tribesman’ fighting a large serpent. Called “A Moment of Peril”, it was sculpted by Leighton’s friend Thomas Brock (1847-1922), who, also, created Imperial Memorial to Queen Victoria in front of Buckingham Palace, and the statue of Queen Victoria that stands at the edge of Cubbon Park in Bangalore (India). During summer, coffee is available for visitors.

14 Holland Park Rd

14 Holland Park Rd

Leighton’s neighbour to the west was the artist Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904), who was born in Calcutta (India) of British parents. His house, number 14, was designed by Philip Webb (1831-1915) and built in the mid-1860s. A ‘father’ of arts-and-crafts architecture, Webb did not give the exterior of this house many of its characteristics, apart from, as a neighbour pointed out to me, its amazing variety of differently shaped windows.

Phil May lived at 20 Holland Park Road

Phil May lived at 20 Holland Park Road

Court House Holland Park Road

Court House Holland Park Road

Holland Park Road west of number 30

Holland Park Road west of number 30

Number 20 Holland Park Road (built late 1870s), where the caricaturist Phil May (1864-1903) lived and worked, is joined to its western neighbours by an arch. A roadway passes under the arch to the entrance of Court House, a relatively modern home (built 1929; architect: AM Cawthorne) without any special architectural merit. It stands on ground, which was occupied by fields and gardens, which in the 1860s neighboured the grounds of Little Holland House (demolished 1875 in order to lay out Melbury Road), where the sculptor and painter GF Watts (1817-1904) had once lived. An archway by the west side of number 30 is adorned with a circular bas-relief of the head of a man wearing a laurel wreath.

Returning to High Street Kensington, we find at the eastern end of the Melbury Court block of flats a plaque commemorating the cartoonist Anthony Low (1891-1963), who lived in flat number 33.

Design Museum

Design Museum

Set back from the main road, and partly hidden by two hideous cuboid buildings, stands an unusual glass-clad building with an amazing distorted tent-shaped roof (made of copper). This used to be the Commonwealth Institute. Built in 1962 (architects: Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall & Partners), I remember, as a schoolboy, visiting the rather gloomy collection of exhibits that it contained shortly after it opened.

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Paolozzi at Design Museum

Paolozzi at Design Museum

The Institute closed in late 2002, and the fascinating building stood empty until 2012, when it was restored and re-modelled internally. In 2016, the building became the home of the Design Museum. Like the architecturally spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, the building competes with the exhibits that it contains, and then wins over them hands down. The displays in the Design Museum are a poor advert for the skills of British designers, whereas the building’s restored interior is a triumph. This is a place to enjoy the building rather than the exhibits. One notable exception to this comment is the sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), which stands in front of the museum.

Holland Park gates Ken High Str

Holland Park gates Ken High Str

Trafalgar Way notice Ken High Str

Trafalgar Way notice Ken High Str

The museum borders Holland Park, which is well-worth exploring. By the park’s High Street entrance, there is a plaque giving the history of the ‘Trafalgar Way’. This was the route taken between Falmouth and London by Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotière (1770-1834), when he carried news of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in 1805. It is at this point that I will let you rest on a bench in the park, or to enjoy its lovely Kyoto Japanese Garden.

Kensington, a village beyond London’s 18th century limits, assumed importance when the Royal Court moved to Kensington Palace. Since then, it has become incorporated gradually into the city without losing much of its earlier charm. Not far from the Royal Academy, many artists have lived in the area. Today, it is one of the more prosperous parts of London, favoured by increasing numbers of wealthier foreigners as a desirable place to reside. Visit the area, and you will see why.

Leighton House

Leighton House

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 04:59 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london studios kensington kensington_palace artists royalty holland_park cetshwayo philosophers paolozzi Comments (5)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]