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HOLLAND HOUSE THEN AND NOW

Pictures of Holland House in West London before and after WW2

HOLLAND HOUSE in Holland Park (west London) was built in the early 17th century (about 1604) in the Jacobean style. It was designed by the architect John Thorpe (dates uncertain: c1555-c1655), who is thought to be the creator of Audley End House in Essex. In 1939, King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) attended a debutante ball at Holland House. Little did they know that this was to be the last great ball to be held at the house. After the German Luftwaffe began devastating London, Holland House was hit by twenty-two incendiary bombs during a ten-hour raid on the night of the 27th of September 1940. Much of the old house was destroyed apart from the east wing. Fortunately, the library and its valuable contents remained undamaged. A video (www.britishpathe.com/video/holland-house-damaged) made by Pathé News shows the house shortly after it was bombed.

The house remained as a ruin until 1952 when its then owner, Giles Fox-Strangways, 6th Earl of Ilchester (1874-1959), a Member of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England from 1939–1959, sold the remains of the house and its extensive grounds (now Holland Park) to the London County Council. Eventually in 1986, what was left of the building was transferred to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. In normal, non covid19, summers, the now well-preserved remains of the house become the home of a temporary theatre where opera is performed. For many years, but no longer, the relatively intact part of the house was used as a youth hostel by the YHA.

Recently, I have acquired a facsimile edition of “History and Antiquities of Kensington” by Thomas Faulkner, which was published originally in 1820. I have also my own copy of an original edition of Volume 5 of “Old and New London” by Edward Walford, published in 1878. Both books were published when Holland House was still intact, and both contain engravings showing how the house looked both outside and inside. Faulkner’s book contains a lengthy detailed listing of all the artworks and books that the house contained. These items included several paintings by artists as famous as Teniers, Canaletto, Joshua Reynolds, and Hogarth, to name but a few. Luckily, most of the art treasures in the house were removed for safety before the outbreak of WW2. The illustrations, some of which I have reproduced, demonstrate how great a tragedy it was that Holland House no longer remains intact.

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Posted by ADAMYAMEY 04:33 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london park britain kensington ww2 holland_park luftwaffe jacobean Comments (0)

JAMES JOYCE AND THE UNDERGROUND TRAINS

A PECULIAR WALL IN KENSINGTON AND THE AUTHOR OF “ULYSSES” & "FINNEGANS WAKE" etc.

THE IRISH AUTHOR James Joyce (1882-1941) lived at number 28B Campden Grove in Kensington in 1931. While living in this flat, he worked on his novel “Finnegans Wake” (published in 1939) and married his long-term companion and muse Nora Barnacle (1884-1951).

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A blue plaque, which I had never noticed before during the 28 years I have lived in the area, on the house records his stay in Kensington. Joyce was not keen on this dwelling. In 1932, he wrote to Harriet Weaver Shaw:
“'I never liked the flat much though I liked the gardens nearby. That grove is inhabited by mummies. Campden Grave, it should be called. London is not made for divided houses. The little sooty dwellings with their backs to the railway line etc etc are genuine; so is Portland Place. But houses like that were never built to be run on the continental system and as flats they are fakes.” (quoted in http://peterchrisp.blogspot.com/2019/05/campden-grave-james-joyce-in-london.html)
A few yards further west of Joyce’s temporary home, I spotted something else that I had not seen before and is relevant to what Joyce wrote.

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The rear outer wall of number 1 Gordon Place is best viewed from near the end of Campden Grove just before it meets the northern end of Gordon Place. That rear wall is unusually shaped. Its windows are set into a concavely curved brickwork wall rather than the normal flat wall.

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Today Gordon Place extends southwards, then briefly joins Pitt Street to run east for a few feet before making a right angle to continue southwards, crossing Holland Street and then ending in a picturesque cul-de-sac lined with luxuriant gardens.

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This has not always been its course. A map surveyed in 1865 shows Gordon Place as running between Campden Grove and Pitt Street. The section of today’s Gordon Place that runs south from Pitt Street to Holland Street was called ‘Vicarage Street’ and the cul-de-sac running south from Holland Street was then called ‘Orchard Street’. A map complied in 1896 reveals that Gordon Place was by then running along its present course. Vicarage Street had become renamed as part of ‘Gordon Place’.

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In each of these maps, the ventilation shaft is circled in red

Aerial views of the curved building, number 1 Gordon Place, show that its curved rear wall forms part of a deep opening that extends below the ground. Maps compiled from 1865 onwards show the presence of this hole and within it short stretches of railway tracks. The hole is a ventilation shaft for the Underground tracks, currently the Circle and District lines, that run just below the surface. Standing on Campden Grove close to the back of number 1 Gordon Place, one can hear trains clearly as they travel below the hole in the ground. How deep is the hole? The corner of Gordon Place and Campden Grove is 86 feet above sea level and High Street Kensington Station is at 43 feet above sea level. The railway lines do not slope too much between the ventilation shaft and the station. According to Transport for London, between Notting Hill Gate and High Street Kensington, they descend by 12 feet (www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/70389/response/179967/attach/html/2/Station%20depths.xlsx.html). Using the information we have, we can estimate the depth of the shaft to be at least 43 feet (i.e. 86-43 plus a little more because the rails are several feet below the surface).

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The Metropolitan Railway that included the stretch of track between Notting Hill Gate and High Street Kensington stations was laid before 1868, and from the 1865 map, it was already present before the date when the map was surveyed. According to a detailed history of the area (https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol37/pp49-57), houses near the corner of Camden Grove and Gordon Place (and in other locations nearby) had to be rebuilt after the railway was constructed between 1865 and 1868. The 1865 map shows no house at the site of the present number 1 Gordon Place. This building with its concave curved rear wall appears on a map surveyed in 1896. It would seem that the developer who constructed number 1 did not want to waste any of his valuable plot; he constructed the rear of the building right up to the circular edge of the ventilation shaft.

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So, now we have an explanation for the curiously curved wall and for Joyce’s complaints about houses with their backs to railway lines. Some friends of ours own a house with an outer wall that forms part of another ventilation hole on the District and Circle lines. They told us that should they need to make repairs to the outside of the wall that overlooks the tracks, they would need to get special permission from the company that runs the Underground and that many precautions would be needed to protect the workmen and the trains running beneath them.

Life is often far from straightforward, but London is endlessly fascinating. James Joyce preferred Paris to London, where most of his books were published. I hope that it was not his experience with trains running close to where he lived in Campden Grove that influenced his preference.

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A brief video that I made gives another view of the ventilation shaft described above:
https://youtu.be/js87XIWn1gU

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 08:42 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged trains london underground kensington subterranean james_joyce Comments (1)

KNIGHTS TEMPLAR AND SHOPPING AT WAITROSE

Temple Fortune in north London

THE FIRST TWO HOUSES to be built in the ‘utopian’ Hampstead Garden Suburb (‘HGS’) still stand on a short stretch of Hampstead Way about 500 feet from Finchley Road, where it passes through the oddly named district of Temple Fortune. These houses are relatively close to shops, whereas most of HGS is not. For, the Suburb was designed with several churches, a couple of schools, but no shopping facilities. In 1905 and a few years following it when HGS was designed and largely built, few people owned motor vehicles. So, for most of the inhabitants of the HGS, shopping had to be done on foot or by bicycle in one of the few shopping areas outside the boundaries of the recently laid out district.

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When I was a child living in HGS, the nearest shops to my home were in Temple Fortune, about half a mile’s walk away. In my early teens, the main shopping attraction for me in Temple Fortune was the branch of WH Smiths, which I noted recently is still functioning where I remember it to have been long ago. Smiths, in those far-off days, had a good stock of books, although not nearly as good as the now non-existent High Hill Books in Hampstead, and gramophone records. It was at Smiths that I bought my first classical music LP, a Music For Pleasure disc with a recording the Second Symphony by Sibelius. Buying that LP was the start of my great love of classical music.

There was a newsagent in Temple Fortune’s Bridge Lane, close to where it meets Finchley Road and neighbouring a hardware shop, which sold cultural material not then stocked by WH Smiths. This included American cartoon comics (‘Superman’ etc.) and ‘Mad’ magazine, which I loved and on which I was prepared to spend my precious pocket money. Unlike Smiths, this shop and the hardware store have disappeared.

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In my youth I never wondered why the somewhat dismal shopping centre was called Temple Fortune. The area was formerly part of a Saxon Hamlet called Bleccanham (www.barnet.gov.uk/libraries-old/local-studies-and-archives/pocket-histories/hendon/temple-fortune-hendon-nw11). The ‘Temple’ part of the name ‘Temple Fortune’, which appears on a map prepared in 1754 refers to the Knights of St John (or more likely, the Knights Templar), who owned land around Hendon in 1240. ‘Fortune’ probably derives from ‘foran tun’ meaning a small settlement on the way to somewhere, in this case the larger settlement of Hendon.

Finchley Road, on which Temple Fortune lies, was only completed in 1835. Before that road was built, the hamlet of Temple Fortune lay on the route from Hampstead to Finchley. In the far-off days before the existence of Finchley Road, to reach Finchley from Hampstead it was necessary to proceed as follows. First, the traveller would have to traverse the range of hills to the north of Hampstead, using a road that roughly follows the present North End Road and its continuation, Golders Green Road. After passing the open fields and common land of Golders Green, which was all that existed of that place before about 1908 when the Northern Line arrived, the traveller would have taken a right turn into Hoop Lane, and gone along it in a north-easterly direction to its end where it met the currently named Temple Fortune Lane. Next, the traveller would have had to go northwest along this lane until he or she reached a triangular open space, which is now the position of modern Temple Fortune. This spot was the southern end of Ducksetters Lane, which wound its way north-eastwards to Finchley. Temple Fortune was also important as a node in northwest London’s road system. The current Bridge Lane was the road along which travellers could travel from Temple Fortune to Brent Street close to Hendon.

I have written about the significance of Hoop Lane in my life elsewhere (https://londonadam.travellerspoint.com/48/). Temple Fortune Lane, which leads to Temple Fortune, was also a place I visited often until my early teens because it was where my then best friend, who passed away a few years ago, used to live. Also, in the late 1960s, our family practitioner moved his surgery to this street from its former location in his home next to Golders Green Underground Station.

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Sad to say, but most of the shopping centre of Temple Fortune is not pleasing to the eye. The exceptions are two large buildings with covered walkways (arcades) with elegant archways at pavement level. Placed either side of the start of Hampstead Way, they form an elegant ‘gateway’ to HGS. Temple Fortune House is on the north side of Hampstead Way and a similar looking building, Arcade House, is on the south side. Nikolaus Pevsner and his colleague Bridget Cherry describe these buildings in “Buildings of England. London 4: North” as follows:
“ … detailed by Unwin’s assistant AJ Penty (1909-1911). Their Germanic silhouettes are inspired by the mediaeval towns, like Rothenburg … Identical hipped gable ends with faintly Regency vertical iron balconies, but otherwise the buildings are subtly different: Arcade House (originally a tea room) partly timber framed, Temple Fortune House (flats) with lattice timber balconies.”
Number 166 Hampstead Way, next to Temple Fortune House, is in the neo-Georgian style and is the area manager’s office called Vivian House.

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In my childhood, much of the ground floor of Arcade House was occupied by a large store called Pullens. This shop supplied uniform to the pupils of numerous north London private schools as well as other children’s clothing. Pullens moved to new locations some years ago. A shop on the ground floor of Temple Fortune House was until recently the premises of Kusum Vadgama, the optometrist. Although I never made use of her services, friends gave good reports of her. I mention her because in addition to caring for people’s vision, she has also authored several books about the history of Indian connections with the UK.

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Many of places that used to be part of the Temple Fortune scene during my childhood have disappeared. At the southern end of the area, near the Police Station, there was a shop that sold rubber hoses and cut pieces of rubber to order. This was on the corner of Finchley Road and a narrow lane. Further south on Finchley Road, there was Kanu Stores, which sold everything you might need for preparing recipes from the Indian subcontinent.

For many years, Brentford Nylons occupied a huge shop in an unattractive building on the corner of Bridge Lane and Finchley Road. WH Smiths and Boots the Chemist are further north along Finchley Road, exactly where they were in my childhood. Somewhere near them, there used to be a Wimpy Bar, into which I never ventured. There was also a delicatessen called ‘Panzers’, which my parents used occasionally, but somewhat reluctantly because one of its employees was often rude to customers.

A narrow-fronted shop somewhere along the west side of Finchley Road housed the barber shop of (Mr?) Lee. For many years, my friends and I used to have our haircuts there. It was quick and cheap, rather than ‘haut coiffure’. Somewhere on the same side of the main road, there was Kendricks, Temple Fortune’s well-stocked toy shop. To my young eyes it was a veritable treasure trove. However, once we had a poor experience there. We were just looking, minding our own business, when the owner came up to us and told us to “bugger off”. As a fairly sheltered nine or ten year old I was shocked and when I returned home, I related the tale to my parents, who were horrified that an adult could speak to children with such language. I am not sure whether I ever entered Kendricks again. The shop no longer exists.

Waitrose grocery store was another feature of the Temple Fortune of my childhood. It still stands in its original position but looks as if it has been enlarged. Around the corner from it in Hayes Crescent, there used to be a small car mechanic’s workshop. I remember this because it was where my friend’s father used to take his well-groomed, leather-seated, wonderful old Austin (A40 or similar) to be serviced.

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One of my main reasons for visiting Temple Fortune apart from shopping was to see films in the now non-existent Odeon cinema, which was on the east side of Finchley Road, a few hundred yards north of Temple Fortune House. It stood between Birnbeck Close and Childs Way. Originally named the ‘Orpheum’, the cinema was opened in October 1930 (http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/26429). Serving both as a cinema and a theatre, it was renamed the ‘Odeon’ in 1945, and then later the ‘Odeon Golders Green’. For a few shillings, one could spend an entire afternoon, from two until after six pm, at the Odeon. After having to stand for the National Anthem, the audience was treated to a full-length feature film, then a documentary from the “Look at Life” series, then advertisements and film trailers, and then another full-length feature film, a new release. Today, cinema-goers are lucky if they get anything more than the trailers and a feature film. After several lean years in the 1970s, the Odeon was demolished in May 1982 and a non-descript block of flats built in its place.

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Between the former Odeon and Temple Fortune House, and set back from the main road, stands a Marks and Spencer food store, which opened a few years after my mother died in 1980. If I remember correctly, the site occupied by M&S used to be the premises of a car showroom or, if not that, some kind of large garage. The original showroom, which might still be part of the structure of the current food store was in the art deco style and was built in 1934 (www.hgstrust.org/documents/area-16-finchley-road.pdf).

I began by writing that there were no shops built in the HGS. This is not strictly true because a row of shops, the Market Place, runs along Falloden Way (part of the A1), which separates the Suburb into two distinct sections, the older (original) and newer parts. However, the original plan was not to include shops. Next to Arcade House at the beginning of Hampstead Way, there is number 16 Arcade House, a small detached single storied building almost surrounded by hedges. It is edifice typical of some of the styles of architecture found in the Suburb and ever since I can remember, it has always been a small shop. In my childhood, I believe it supplied electrical fittings or picture framing, but now it houses another kind of business, related to design. Given its postal address, it must have been something like an outhouse for its larger neighbour, Arcade House.

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One place that I associate with later in my life, during the 1980s, is a Chinese restaurant that served excellent food. I used to eat there occasionally with my father and friends. One of the dishes I remember that we enjoyed was a starter consisting of scallops served in their shells. The restaurant closed long ago, which is a pity. Now, scallops, in common with all other shellfish, are not kosher and therefore observant Jewish people do not eat them. Temple Fortune was and still is in a neighbourhood where many observant Jewish people, who adhere to kosher dietary rules, reside. During my childhood and still today, there were and still are several shops selling food that satisfies the kosher requirements. One of these shops, which existed in my childhood, Sam Stoller, the fishmonger, remains in business, but the other stores have sprung up since I became an adult. A report in “My London” dated 22nd of June 2020 (https://www.mylondon.news/news/north-london-news/police-stumble-across-huge-cannabis-18457845) revealed:
“Metropolitan Police officers were called on Friday night (June 19) after water was seen running out of Sam Stoller & Son fishmongers, a ground floor shop on Temple Fortune Parade … there was a "significant" water leak from the flat above … Firefighters helped the officers force their way in only to find a sophisticated cannabis farm of more than 300 plants … It was the hydroponic system used to water the many illegal plants that was leaking…”
Well, I had no idea that glum Temple Fortune could be such an exciting place. Talking of horticulture, there is a garden centre near to the end of Temple Fortune Lane where it meets Finchley Road. This establishment has been there for many decades but the off-licence shop opposite it is no longer there.

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Temple Fortune remains an important shopping and meeting centre for those who live in the shop free HGS. Many of the places that I remember from my childhood have disappeared from it, but a few remain. Walking along Finchley Road through Temple Fortune still evokes memories of my childhood and during our sporadic visits there, we ‘bump’ into old acquaintances occasionally.

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Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:51 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london shopping memory judaism childhood golders_green temple_fortune Comments (2)

PEEL AND FLINT: artists and pubs in Notting Hill Gate

A short street in Kensington and a well-known painter of sensuous women

WALKING ALONG A SHORT street in London’s Kensington recently, I observed things that I had never noticed before and was reminded of Tony ‘M’. When I was a student of dentistry at the University College Hospital Dental School, I first met Tony in the third year. In that year, we began to learn how to make crowns (‘caps’) for our patients. Instead of sending the work out to be done by technicians, we students had to learn the nitty gritty of fabricating crowns, mostly gold ones. We were assigned to one of three or four technician tutors. I was assigned to Tony’s group. Why visiting Peel Street in Kensington sparked me to think of Tony will be revealed later.

Peel Street in Notting Hill Gate lies in land that used to be known as ‘The Racks’. It was part of the extensive estate of Campden House, which was owned by the Phillimore family. In the early 19th century, the land was bought by John Punter and William Ward, who divided the land between them in 1823 after having agreed to lay out two roads: Peel Str and Campden Str. Peel Street lay in Punter’s share of the area. Although Punter retained several plots along Peel Street, the rest were sold to a variety of different people. Nearer the eastern end of the street several buildings were demolished between 1865 and 1875 during the construction of what is now the Circle Line. Though the tracks are underground, there are no buildings built above them. If you look through the gap on the north side of the road, you can see the rear of a brick building which fronts on Edge Street. Near the top of this place, some bricks have been made to project slightly and to spell the name ‘LESLIE’. The rear part of this L-shaped building is currently occupied by ‘The Spanish Education Office’. This building was flying Spanish and EU flags. I have no idea about the significance of ‘Leslie’.

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One of the houses on the south side of Peel Street used to be a pub. It still bears the lettering ‘Peel Arms’. It was probably in existence by 1889, but today it is a private dwelling. The pub’s clientele were probably mostly workers who toiled in the gravel pits that abounded in the neighbourhood. The pub is not far from the six-storey Camden Houses, brick-built blocks of flats erected in 1877-8 for labourers, some of whom might well have drunk at the Peel Arms. The blocks contain 125 separate flats. The entrances to the blocks have art nouveau features. The building were designed by the architect Edwyn Evans Cronk (1846-1919) for the National Dwellings Society Ltd. Cronk was born in Sevenoaks (Kent) and died in Redcliffe Square in South Kensington.

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At the western end of Peel Street, there is another pub, The Windsor Castle. Unlike the Peel Arms, this is a working establishment, now popular with the locals, most of whom are not poorly paid labourers. It was originally built in about 1826 and then remodelled in 1933. The pub contains much of its original late Georgian building fabric and is a Grade II listed place. Although I have passed it often, I have never entered it or its reputedly fine garden. At the Eastern end of Peel Street, there is a wine bar, The Kensington Wine Rooms. When we were getting married, back in 1993, the premises were occupied by a branch of the Café Rouge restaurant chain. We held a pre-wedding dinner there. The premises now housing the wine bar once housed a pub, The Macaulay Arms. It was listed as being in existence in the 1868 edition of “Allen's West London Street Directory”. Thus, residents of Peel Street were only a few steps from three ‘drinking holes’.

The directory ( https://www.gutenberg.org/files/58160/58160-h/58160-h.htm) lists the residents of Peel Street in 1868 as follows:
“1 Upfold George, sweep/ 2 Arnold F., carpenter/ 3 Miles Frederick, painter/ 23 Mansell H., painter/ 26 Redman J., marine stores/ 28 Redman J., beer retailer/ 37 Taylor W., gardener/ 46 Lucas Wm. Grocer/ 53 Hobbs Mrs. general shop/ 55 Horskins Thos. Baker/ 63 Pollett —, bootmaker/ Harris W., greengrocer/ 67 Smart M., The George Brewery/ 69 Dunnett Mrs. dressmaker/ 77 Elson George, oilman/ 80 Evans H., gardener/ 82 Atwood Mrs, dressmaker/ 83 Salmon —, bootmaker”
Most of the inhabitants appear to have been tradesmen, merchants, and craftsmen, rather than labourers. This is probably because the list was compiled before the Campden Houses were built to house manual labourers and their families. Incidentally, there is still a greengrocer on Peel Street. Jack and Jessie’s excellent shop is opposite the Kensington Wine Rooms.

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Peel Cottage stands almost at the corner of Peel Street and Campden Hill Road. It is next to number 118 Campden Hill Road (aka ‘West House’), a building on the corner of Peel street designed for the artist George Henry Boughton (1803-1905) in the late 1870s by Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912). New Scotland Yard and Lowther Lodge (home of the Royal Geographical Society on Kensington Gore) were amongst the many other buildings designed by Shaw. Another artist, the landscape painter Matthew Ridley Corbet (1850-1902) lived at number 80 Peel Street, where once lived the gardener, H Evans.

The entrance to Peel Cottage, which is dwarfed by its neighbours, is partially covered with ivy. It was seeing the blue, circular commemorative plaque on the wall next to its entrance that reminded me of my former teacher Tony M. The plaque informs the passer-by that the artist Sir William Russell Flint (1880-1969) lived in Peel Cottage from 1925 until his death. This brings me back to Tony M, about whom you must have thought I had forgotten already.

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As a dental student, I spent many hours with Tony M as I struggled to make decent gold crowns that would fit my patients’ teeth in the conservation clinics of the Dental School. Each encounter with Tony involved a trip to the canteen in the school’s basement. Tony was unable to function without a fresh cup of the school’s barely mediocre coffee. Over cups of coffee, Tony used to encourage us when the clinical teachers made our lives miserable, help with our technical work, and chat. During one of our sessions together, Tony, knowing that art interested me, suggested that I visit Cottrell’s showrooms in nearby Charlotte Street (numbers 15-17) to see the fine collection of paintings that hung on its walls. Cottrell’s were an important supplier of dental equipment and materials. Today, although it has retained its original Victorian frontage, it is the premises of the Charlotte Street Hotel.

Dutifully and because I was curious, I visited Cottrell’s showroom and looked at the framed watercolours hanging on the walls of the two ground floor showrooms. The paintings were all works of the inhabitant of Peel Cottage, William Russell Flint.

Flint was born in Edinburgh. He studied at Daniel Stewart's College and then Edinburgh Institution. Between 1900 and 1902, he worked as a medical illustrator in London. Later, he produced illustrations for books and “The Illustrated London News”. He was elected President of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours (now the Royal Watercolour Society, of which my wife’s cousin, Varsha Bhatia, is a member), a position he held from 1936 until 1956. He was knighted in 1947. Flint produced many well-executed, delicately tinted water-colour paintings. He often visited Spain, where he made plenty of images that often included sensuous portrayals of women in various stages of undress. It was some of these titillating paintings that Tony had sent me to see on the walls of Cottrell’s showroom.

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It was in the late 1970s or early 1980s (before 1982, when I qualified) that Tony M encouraged me to pay a visit to Cottrell’s in Charlotte Street to widen my knowledge of the world of art. Many years have passed since then, but a memory of that brief glimpse of Flint’s paintings lingers in the back of my mind. Visiting Peel Street and seeing Flint’s home brought that all back to the forefront of my memory.

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 06:19 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged "london" "kensington" "william_russell_flint" "artists" "pubs" "sensuous" "dentistry" Comments (0)

WANDERING ALONG WARREN STREET

Warren Street is a station on the Northern and Victoria Lines of London’s Underground network. Situated at the intersection of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road, both important arteries, Warren Street itself is comparatively small and of minor significance in the greater scheme of things. Be that as it may, this short street, which runs south of and parallel to Euston Road, has had some importance in my life.

Warren Street

Warren Street

When the Underground Station was opened in 1907, it was named ‘Euston Road’. In 1908, it acquired the present name. By the time that I began using the station regularly (in 1970), the Victoria Line had been serving the station for two years. Warren Street itself was built in the late 18th century as part of the Fitzroy Estate. It was named after Anne Warren (1737–1807), who married Charles Fitzroy (1737-1797), First Baron Southampton.

In the early 1970s, when I was studying at University College London (‘UCL’), one of my fellow students on my BSc course in physiology was a young Indian girl, Lopa, who is now my wife. She spent a couple of years living at the International Students House (‘ISH’) which faces Great Portland Street Underground Station. She and other Indian students introduced me to really good Indian food. This was served at the now no longer existent Diwan-i-am restaurant on Warren Street. It was here and at other nearby restaurants, such as Diwan-i-khas, Lal Qila, and Agra, that food was cooked by Indians and Pakistanis rather than by Bangladeshis, who operated the majority of so-called Indian restaurants in the UK. While Bangladeshi cuisine might be excellent, much of the ‘Indian’ food cooked by Bangladeshis is less satisfactory.

Tiranti, Warren Street

Tiranti, Warren Street

When the Diwan-i-am was in business, so were many car dealers who had their premises on Warren Street. These have long since disappeared. One business that still exists and predates the Diwan-i-am is Tiranti, an important supplier of, to quote their website: “…materials, equipment and tools to sculptors, modelmakers, mouldmakers, designers, prototypers, woodcarvers, stonecarvers, specialist plasterers, building picture and furniture restorers, potters and ceramicists.” Giovanni Tiranti started this enterprise in High Holborn in 1895. The company first began using premises near Warren Street in 1945. I am not sure when the Warren Street shop opened, but it was about 20 years ago at least. I never purchased anything there but my late uncle S, an engineer by profession and a keen sculptor in his spare time, was a regular customer.

I studied at UCL for twelve years. During the last five of these, I was studying dental surgery at the now, sadly, no longer existing Dental Hospital. Warren Street Station was the most convenient place from which to reach the Dental School from my home in Golders Green. It was a few yards from the station to the passage that led from Tottenham Court Road into Mortimer Market, where one part of the Dental Hospital was housed. In those days, the passageway was flanked by an official Iraqi Tourist Office. I used to visit this occasionally to look at the fine exhibitions of photographs shown there. The staff, no doubt agents of the late Saddam Hussein, were friendly. Once, they gave me a gift of four LPs of Iraqi folk music. Many of the ancient sights in the photographs might well now have suffered damage during the troubles that afflicted Iraq long after I had become qualified as a dentist.

Warren Street

Warren Street

There were several photography suppliers’ shops on the stretch of Tottenham Court Road near Warren Street. Their windows displayed a huge range of camera bodies and lenses. I bought my first SLR camera at one of these shops. They have mostly gone now. So also has Sterns. This electrical shop was well-known for its superb stock of African music LPs. Some years after I had left UCL finally (in 1982), Sterns, which opened in the early 1950s, moved from its somewhat aged premises on Tottenham Court Road to a newer shop around the corner on Euston Road. This has also disappeared, but Sterns still goes on in the form of an on-line firm.

One rainy early Monday morning, I emerged from Warren Street Station, and walked to the Dental School. The streets seemed emptier than usual. When I arrived at the school, the doors were locked closed. I was puzzled. Then, I bumped into another student, also soaking because of the weather. Shamefacedly, we realised that we had turned up on a bank holiday.

Evans Dairy, Warren Street

Evans Dairy, Warren Street

Some time during the mid to late 1970s, a branch of McDonalds opened on the corner of Warren Street and Tottenham Court Road. Occasionally, I used to pop in there for a snack on my way home. Now, some decades later, Warren street is lined with ‘trendy’ eateries, one of which is housed in an old dairy on the corner of Conway Street. Much of the original tilework of the former dairy of J Evans has been preserved. Although there are many newer buildings on Warren Street, a few of the original late 18th century structures have survived.

Warren Street

Warren Street

While Warren Street is not worthy of a long detour, it provides much more than a name for an Underground Station.


Posted by ADAMYAMEY 07:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london england india restaurants university iraq student ucl Comments (2)

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