A Travellerspoint blog

SELL THE WIFE AND HEAD FOR ISLINGTON

Enjoy a slice of London's history by walking from Smithfield through Islington to Highbury Corner.

“He married Jane Carter,
No damsel look’d smarter;
But he caught a tartar,
John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
Yes, he caught a tartar, John Hobbs.
He tied a rope to her, John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
He tied a rope to her, John Hobbs!
To ‘scape from hot water,
To Smithfield he brought her;
But nobody bought her …”

“John Hobbs” from "Modern Street Ballads", ed. J Ashton (publ. 1888).

Smithfield Market

Smithfield Market

Clerkenwell’s St Johns Street was described in 1170 as the street: … which goeth from the bar of Smithfield towards Yseldon [i.e. Islington]” (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol46/pp203-221). It was a well-worn route from the country into town, and was lined with coaching inns for travellers and hostelries for cattle drovers bringing their animals to market. Before exploring the street, we will look at St Peters Italian Church in Clerkenwell Road just west of Farringdon Road.

St Peters Italian church

St Peters Italian church

St Peters Italian church

St Peters Italian church

This church is in the heart of what was once known as ‘Little Italy’ because of its Italian community, which was began growing rapidly at the beginning of the 19th century. St Peters, designed by the Irish Sir John Miller-Bryson, was consecrated in 1863. The congregation originated in the 18th century when Roman Catholicism was outlawed in England. Then, Catholic services were held clandestinely in the chapel of the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Sardinia (see: “La Chiesa italiana di San Pietro a Londra”, by LM Stanca, publ. 2001), which was in today’s Sardinia Street near Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

WW1 monument St Peters Italian church

WW1 monument St Peters Italian church

Its narrow façade belies the church’s large interior. In the porch, there is a monument to Italians who died during WW1. With an inscription by Gabriele d’Annunzio (1863-1938), the monument gives the war’s dates as 1915-1918, 1915 being the year when Italy joined the forces allied against Germany. The monument, which bears the symbol of Mussolini’s fascists is dated both as 1927 and as ‘Anno VI’, that being the 6th year since Mussolini assumed power. Above the war memorial, there is a monument to the victims of the ‘SS Arandora Star’, which was sunk in 1940 while carrying Italian internees and POWs to Canada.

St Peters Italian church

St Peters Italian church

Entering the spacious body of the church is like stepping out of London and into a typical late baroque church in Italy. The central aisle is flanked with polished marble pillars topped with Ionic capitals. Apart from various monuments including a list of those lost on the Arandora Star, there are many paintings, the oldest of which ‘l’Orbetto’ was painted by Alessandro Turchi (1578-1649). When not being used, this church is an oasis of peace in a busy area of London.

Farringdon Rd and Middlesex Session House

Farringdon Rd and Middlesex Session House

Descending Clerkenwell Road eastwards, we pass: Hatton Garden (of diamond-trading fame); Saffron Hill and Herbal Hill, where once there were gardens in which herbs and saffron were grown. Farringdon Road follows the course of the (now buried) Fleet River.

Well Court

Well Court

Well Court

Well Court

Well Court is in Farringdon Lane. A sign on its exterior reads “Clerks’ Well”. Through the windows, you can see a circular well lined with bricks, and some old piping. This was used to carry water from the well. Behind the well, there is brick facing that covers the mediaeval wall of the former St Mary’s Nunnery. Above it, there is a commemorative plaque that used to be located above a pump, which was formerly located in the street near the well. The notice informs that the water that supplied the well was “greatly esteemed by the Prior and Brethren of the Order of Jerusalem and the Benedictine Nuns in the Neighbourhood”. These establishments were closed by King Henry VIII. The well, which gives its name to Clerkenwell, continued to be used until the mid-19th century, when it became polluted, filled in, and built over. In 1924, it was rediscovered during building works.

Turnmill street in 2 languages

Turnmill street in 2 languages

Farringdon station

Farringdon station

Moving southwards, we pass the newly restored Middlesex Sessions House (described elsewhere), and approach Farringdon Station via Turnmill Street, an old thoroughfare which was close to mills powered by the waters of the River Fleet (before it was covered in the 19th century). Farringdon Station serves both the Underground and the Overground railways. Its Cowcross Street entrance hall, designed by Charles Walter Clark (1885–1972), who designed several other ‘tube’ stations, was opened in 1922.

Cowcross St and pawnbrokers sign

Cowcross St and pawnbrokers sign

Faulkners Alley off Cowcross St

Faulkners Alley off Cowcross St

Turnmill and Cowcross Streets mark the south-west boundary of the land owned by the former Priory of St John of Jerusalem (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol46/pp182-202#h2-0001). A building at the west end of Cowcross Street has a projecting bracket with three gold coloured spheres, the sign of a pawnbroker. Faulkners Alley, one of many alleys in the area, is visible through a narrow arch decorated with a pretty cast-iron metal screen.

70 to 75 Cowcross Str

70 to 75 Cowcross Str

Denmark Hse Cowcroft Str built 1879

Denmark Hse Cowcroft Str built 1879

Cowcroft and Peter Streets

Cowcroft and Peter Streets

Number 70-75 Cowcross Street is a large four-storey, glass-fronted, steel-framed building, designed by the London architects Smee & Houchin, and built in 1921. Almost opposite, is Denmark House constructed 1878-79. This building and number 70-75 were two of several buildings constructed in the area for use as warehouses or stores. At Peters Lane, Cowcross street turns southward towards to meet St Johns Street, which commences at the north side of Smithfield Market, an indoor wholesale meat marketplace.

Smithfield north side with Barbican behind

Smithfield north side with Barbican behind

Smithfield mkt

Smithfield mkt

Smithfield’s central Grand Avenue is entered through an archway flanked by two heraldic dragons and a pair of stone sculptures. The Avenue runs beneath a high roof supported by ornate painted ironwork arches. Side aisles are lined with the meat dealers’ stalls and glass-covered display cabinets. In 1852, London’s livestock market was moved from Smithfield to Copenhagen Fields in Islington (off Caledonian Road, where the Caledonian Park is now located). This cleared the area for the construction of the present meat market, which was completed by 1868. Constructed in an era before refrigerators were used, the market was designed to keep out the sun and to take advantages of prevailing breezes.

Smithfield mkt

Smithfield mkt

In mediaeval times, Smithfield had a bad reputation. It was known for criminal activity, violence, and public executions. In the early 19th century, when obtaining divorce was difficult, men brought their unwanted wives to Smithfield to sell them, then a legal way of ending a marriage (see: “Meat, Commerce and the City: The London Food Market, 1800–1855”, by RS Metcalfe, publ. 2015).

At the southern end of Saint Johns Street (‘SJS’), the gable of number 5 bears a bas-relief of a boar and the date 1897, when the building (used for commerce and retail) was re-built by W Harris. Just north of this, St John widens temporarily to form an oval space.

5 St Johns Str

5 St Johns Str

South end St Johns Str showing widening

South end St Johns Str showing widening

Number 16 on the east side of the oval bears a cross-keys symbol near its roof, and the intertwined letters ‘A & M’ above its central first-floor window. This building housed the ‘Cross Keys’ pub until before 1983. There had been a pub on this site, a coaching inn, since before the 18th century. Its neighbour, number 18, is a Victorian gothic building was formerly a warehouse built 1886-7. A disused crane arm can be seen projecting from between the building’s two main gothic arches. In 1889, the building was let to Oppenheimer & Co, sausage-skin manufacturers. Now, it has other uses.

16 and 18 St johns Str

16 and 18 St johns Str

22 St john Str

22 St john Str

26 St John Str

26 St John Str

The slender number 22 was already built by the early 18th century. It is the only surviving member of a row of three similar houses. Close by, number 26 was built in the early 19th century on a site once occupied by an inn called ‘The Swan with Two Necks’, which was already established by 1670. There used to be quite a cluster of inns in this part of St Johns. They catered for the coaches and the drovers who made much use of this thoroughfare.

34 to 36 St Johns Str

34 to 36 St Johns Str

Number 34-36, with its magnificent late Victorian stone and brick facade was once the premises of George Farmiloe & Sons, lead and glass merchants. This building and its neighbour are built on land once occupied by yet another inn and its yard. In 1999, Farmiloe’s moved their business from SJS.

Building with bulls heads in Peters Lane

Building with bulls heads in Peters Lane

Building with bulls heads in Peters Lane

Building with bulls heads in Peters Lane

Take a small detour into Peter’s Lane to see a tall brick building adorned with realistic bulls’ and cows’ heads (sculpted by Mark Merer and Lucy Glendenning) standing at its northern end. This tower was built in the late 1990s. It is attached to a boutique hotel, The Rookery, which occupies some modernised Victorian (or 18th century) buildings.

White Bear St Johns Str

White Bear St Johns Str

71 St John St

71 St John St

72 St Johns Str

72 St Johns Str

Returning to SJS, number 57 is occupied by the White Bear pub, which was rebuilt 1898-99. Nearly opposite it, number 71 has a neo-classical shopfront with Ionic pilasters. This building was built 1817-18. The shop was first leased by John Newton, a cork manufacturer. Opposite it, number 75 is a slender brick building with brick arches above its first-floor windows. It was built in the 1830s.

78 to 80 St john Str

78 to 80 St john Str

Passing Alley

Passing Alley

Passing Alley St Johns Str end

Passing Alley St Johns Str end

Passing Alley is no longer where it used to be in monastic times. The present alley is further south from its original location. On Rocque’s 1745 map and an earlier one (1676), it was named ‘Pissing Alley’. The current name first appeared on a 1790 map (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol46/pp142-163). It leads from SJS to St Johns Lane. From the latter end of the alley, there is a good view of the historic archway of the Order of St John (see elsewhere). This end of the alley emerges from a building labelled ‘Lovell and Christmas’, a former grocery built in 1897.

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Further north along St Johns, there is a red brick building with a large street opening guarded by ornately decorated wooden gates. This was once the ‘Cannon Brewery’, descendant of a brewery founded in the 1670s. The Brewing Yard Offices were built in 1875, the date on the lovely clock that can be seen within the courtyard. The brewery faces a large white stone-faced building, which was designed by Malcolm Waverley Matts (1874-1960) and built 1925-27 for Pollard & Co Ltd, shopfitter suppliers (shopfronts, shelving, etc,). The company invented ‘invisible glass’, concave sheets of glass used in shopfronts.

158 to 173 St Johns Str

158 to 173 St Johns Str

Aylesbury Str

Aylesbury Str

Woodbridge Chapel

Woodbridge Chapel

After crossing Clerkenwell Road, take a detour along Aylesbury Street passing a new glass-fronted five-storey building with some black tiling on its facade, and then enter Woodbridge Street, where the Woodbridge Chapel stands. This was built in 1823 (architect: Thomas Porter) for a Calvinist sect. After having been used as a liquor store by Nicholsons (see below), this became a school, and then later a medical facility that is still in use. It is also still used for religious purposes.

St Johns Str old Nicholson's distillery

St Johns Str old Nicholson's distillery

A former Finch pub on Compton Str

A former Finch pub on Compton Str

Back on SJS at the corner of Compton Street, there is a former pub. Rebuilt in 1901, this was once ‘The George’ (already established at the beginning of the 19th century). The large building just north of this on the other side of St Johns, is decorated with eleven pilasters and has a central archway leading to an inner courtyard. This (built in the 1890s) and the building immediately to its north were part of Nicholson’s Distillery. The Nicholson’s, who had been distilling spirits in Clerkenwell since the 1730s and in Bow since the 1770s, established the origins of the present site in 1802. In 1872, the company bought the Three Mills Distillery on the River Lea at Bow (which I describe elsewhere). This supplied grain alcohol which was processed in the Clerkenwell works. The distillery has been converted into flats.

Liberty Hse former gas meter factory

Liberty Hse former gas meter factory

Former Scholl factory now refaced St Johns Str

Former Scholl factory now refaced St Johns Str

Another former factory that has been used to provide accommodation is Liberty House, number 218. Now a students’ residence, this was once Thomas Glover & Co.’s gas meter factory. This was built in 1868, designed by Alexander Peebles (1840-1891). Next door to it, there is a handsome modern glass-fronted office block, which stands where once the Scholl factory stood. The building’s current Mondriaan-like façade was created in 1989 by Brandon-Jones, Robinson, Sanders & Thorne.

North end of Sekforde Str

North end of Sekforde Str

Just opposite this, Sekforde Street, with its rows of 19th century terraced houses (built 1828-42), is well worth a glance. These rows are interrupted by an elegant neo-classical façade, that of the former Finsbury Savings Bank, built in 1840 (designed by Arthur Bartholomew). This institution was founded in 1816 for servants, labourers, tradesmen, and so on. In 1845, the author Charles Dickens deposited some of his money here.

The Peasant St johns Str

The Peasant St johns Str

North of Skinner Street, SJS changes character. It has less of a history of industry and commerce than the section south to Smithfield. Whereas the latter half was urbanised by the 17th century or earlier, the northern section remained almost rural until the late 18th century. The imposing, decorated Peasant pub was built in 1890 as the ‘George and Dragon public house and coffee tavern’.

Finsbury Library

Finsbury Library

Finsbury Library at number 245, a sweeping curved sixties’ construction (built 1967) that has a certain elegance celebrated 50 years of its existence in 2017. It was designed by the German Jewish refugee Carl Ludwig Franck (1904-1985), who collaborated on other buildings with Tecton (see below). The library houses a local history department. The Islington Museum is in the basement.

Islington Museum

Islington Museum

Lenin in Islington Museum

Lenin in Islington Museum

New River pipes in Islington Museum

New River pipes in Islington Museum

The Museum is well laid-out and interesting. Many of its exhibits tend to stress the socialistic aspects of Islington’s history. A prominently displayed bust of VI Lenin and an exhibit of local ‘radicals’ are in character with this. A recently created tapestry illustrates Islington’s many associations with socialism. One exhibit that particularly interested me was of some wooden water pipes that had once been used to convey drinking water from the New River (see below) to its consumers. I saw similar pipes, which are hollowed-out tree trunks, in a museum in Edinburgh. One end of each wooden section is carved to a taper so that it can be slotted into the uncarved end of another wooden section.

City University

City University

Across the road from the library, stands a grand brick and stone building of City University (completed 1898), which was designed by Edward William Mountford (1855-1908), who also designed The Old Bailey court house. This was first home to ‘The Northampton Institute’ founded in 1852 to teach a range of skills to young men and women from the less-affluent parts of the populace. In 1966, the college received its Royal Charter, and became a university. The Inns of Court School of Law, attached to the University in 2001, proudly includes amongst its alumni: ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and my wife. These people graduated before the law school joined the university.

Spa Green

Spa Green

Spa Fields is a small park at the western end of the short Lloyd’s Row. It contains a WW1 memorial (erected 1921) with a statue of a winged Victory. In the early 18th century, this was an area where various violent sports, such as prize-fighting and bull-baiting, were enjoyed. In 1815, during riots against the Corn Laws, there was a large meeting at SpaFields, where: “… a tricolor flag and a revolutionary cap had been paraded before cheering crowds who had later broken into a gunsmith’s shop and marched towards the City” (See: “George IV”, by C Hibbert, publ. 1976).

Site of New River Head

Site of New River Head

Site of New River Head

Site of New River Head

Across Roseberry Avenue, which flanks Spa Fields, there is a large brick building with white stone trimmings, now a block of flats. Completed in 1920, New River Head House was designed by Herbert Austen Hall (1881-1968) as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Water Board. Above two of its windows, there are carved inscriptions. One reads “Erected MDCXIII”, and the other “MDCCLXXXII”. These dates are 1623 and 1782 respectively, which are carved in archaic lettering. The inscribed stones must have been saved from an earlier building. The land on which the house stands was formerly the ‘New River Head’.

The New River, a canal constructed to bring fresh water from Hertfordshire into London ended at the reservoir called ‘New River Head’. It was high enough above what was the city of London in the 17th century to allow the flow of water from it to be ‘powered’ by gravity alone (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol47/pp165-184). The brick-lined reservoir was constructed in 1623, when the first building at the reservoir, the ‘Water House’, was also built. The architect Robert Mylne (1733-1811), surveyor to the New River Company, repaired, enlarged, and refaced it in the 18th century. The refacing was done in 1782. So, the two inscriptions on the present building derive from Mylne’s time. The old building, which had been enlarged many times, was demolished by 1915.

Former Lab building Site of New River Head

Former Lab building Site of New River Head

New River Head House is close to the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, where my parents used to take me to see opera during the 1960s. One of the first operas I saw was ‘La Traviata’. I remember finding it very tedious watching the heroine taking ages to die. This was performed by ‘The Sadler’s Wells Opera’, which moved to the larger capacity Coliseum Theatre in 1968, and later changed its name to ‘The English National Opera’. Standing between the theatre New River Head House, is an elegantly curved brick building, the former ‘Water-Testing Laboratory’. This was built 1936-38, and designed by John Murray Easton (1889-1975).

Spa Green Estate

Spa Green Estate

St Johns Str opposite Spa Green Estate

St Johns Str opposite Spa Green Estate

Returning to SJS via Lloyds Row, we pass a distinctive block of council flats with balconies punctuated by a semi-circular tower containing a staircase. This is part of Spa Green Estate (built after WW2), which was designed by the architectural firm Tecton, which was under the direction of Berthold Lubetkin (1901-1990) and other leading architects. Incidentally, this firm also designed the private block of flats, High Point, in Highgate. The estate was built on land that had been covered with slum-dwellings. Across SJS, older buildings face the newer ones.

Old Red Lion theatre pub

Old Red Lion theatre pub

The Old Red Lion Theatre Pub stands on SJS near its northern end at Pentonville Road. The pub has a long ancestry. It was first established in what was the tiny village of Islington in 1415. The present building decorated with lions painted in a lurid red was built in 1899. In 1979, a small theatre opened on its first floor. I have seen several plays well-performed in this very intimate little space.

Former Angel Hotel built 1903

Former Angel Hotel built 1903

SJS becomes ‘Upper Street’ after it crosses Pentonville Road at The Angel. There is a grand salmon-pink stone building with pilasters and an elaborately decorated dome at the corner of Upper Street and Pentonville Road. This was designed by Frederick James Eedle and Sydney Herbert Meyers, and completed in 1903 as the ‘Angel Hotel’. It stands where in the 17th century (by 1614) there was an inn called ‘The Angel’. By the 18th century, this had become an important staging post for coaches. The present building stands at the southern end of Upper Street, which, with no shortage of eateries, is one of London’s most popular places of refreshment. The street was so-named to distinguish it from the former ‘Lower Street’, now named Essex Road.

Upper Str former LCC electrical substation

Upper Str former LCC electrical substation

A long, single-storey building (on the east side of the street) built with yellow bricks and trimmed with white stonework was once an electrical sub-station for the London County Council Tramways This was designed by Vincent Harris (1876-1971), and built 1905-06 (see: “London 4: North”, by B Cherry and N Pevsner, publ. 1998). The pavement across the road from this is elevated, and lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. Prior to the building of the substation and other buildings close to it, the southern section of Upper Street, which used to be part of the ‘High Street’, was wider than the rest of Upper Street to its north. This widening, such as was seen earlier at the southern section of SJS, and is also evident in Hampstead’s High Street, is typical of the widened sections of High Streets where markets were/are held in country towns.

Phelps Cottage 1838

Phelps Cottage 1838

Just north of the substation, a single two-storey cottage stands on a short road linking Upper Street and the Islington High Street. Dated 1838, this is Phelps Cottage, a solitary reminder of earlier times when Islington was a small town, rapidly becoming absorbed into the spreading city.

View of Islington High Str from Upper Str

View of Islington High Str from Upper Str

Camden Passage, with its many antiques dealers, is the northern continuation of the narrow High Street. There is a shop on the Passage, which has a first-floor terrace enclosed within a pretty wall of glass panes framed by interlocking gothic arches. This shop forms part of a terrace of 18th century buildings, which were present before Islington became a part of London.

Business Design Centre Islington

Business Design Centre Islington

The contemporary-looking Business Design Centre on the western side of Upper Street, designed by Frederick Peck (c1827-1875), was opened in 1862 as the ‘Royal Agricultural Hall’. Its vast glass-covered hall was used for a variety of shows and exhibitions until 1943, when it was used temporarily as a postal parcels’ office, the nearby Mount Pleasant postal centre having been damaged by bombing. Between the 1970, when the Post Office stopped using it, and 1986, the building stood empty. In ’86, it was bought by the businessman Sam Morris (1917-1991), who converted it to its present reincarnation, which is still used for exhibitions - I attended a contemporary art fair there not long ago - and for offices and conference usage.

Sir Hugh Mydelton

Sir Hugh Mydelton

At the triangular Islington Green (which was already on 18th century maps), Essex Road branches off from Upper Street at an acute angle. At the apex of the triangle, there is a statue of Sir Hugh Myddelton (1560-1631) sculpted by John Thomas (1813–1862). He stands bare-footed, wearing a ruff and breeches, which stop short of his uncovered knees and lower legs. Below his plinth, two carved children sit or kneel with pitchers between their legs. Once, they issued water, but no longer. Myddelton, a Welsh entrepreneur, was the driving force behind the creation of the New River water supply project (see above). The 38-mile-long canal, which he helped to finance, was constructed between 1608 and 1613. The statue was presented by Sir Morton Peto (1809-1889), a politician and civil engineer. Local financing paid for the fountain and the pedestal, dated 1862.

Islington War Memorial on Islington Green

Islington War Memorial on Islington Green

Islington Green is often filled with people relaxing on park benches. At its western edge, there is a circular sculpture resembling a three-dimensional Möbius Strip. This is Islington’s War Memorial designed by John Maine, and completed in 2007. It replaced an earlier memorial (an obelisk), which had fallen into disrepair. The ring was carved in China using stone from Fujian Province before being shipped to England. Today where there is a branch of Waterstones bookshops (numbers 10-11 Islington Green), there used to be a music hall, ‘Collin’s Music Hall’. This staggered on until it was damaged by fire in 1958 (see: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Collins.htm). In 2008, there was a plan to build another theatre on the site, which was already occupied by the bookshop, but this has not happened.

The Screen on the Green

The Screen on the Green

The Screen-on-the-Green cinema with its distinctive façade, surmounted by a semi-circular pediment the width of the building, faces the memorial across Upper Street. Built in 1911 as ‘The Picture Theatre’, this has survived (unlike the music hall). Modernised in 1981, this establishment is now part of the Everyman group of cinemas.

Congregational Chapel Upper Str

Congregational Chapel Upper Str

The distinctive brick building with triangular gables (one of them bearing the date 1888) and large upper storey windows at the corner of Gaskin Street was once the ‘Congregational Chapel’. This was the last building to be designed by the architect HJ Paull. It is no longer used for religious purposes.

Kings Head pub and theatre

Kings Head pub and theatre

Further north, is the Victorian King’s Head. I have visited this pub often, not so much to drink but, instead, to enjoy dramatic performances in the tiny theatre behind the bar-room. This theatre was founded by theatre producer Dan Crawford (1942-2005) in 1970. I have seen several great performances there. One, which I remember, was “Phallacy” by Carl Djerassi (1923-2005), a playwright and scientist who helped to develop the contraceptive pill. On that occasion, we took advantage of a service which used to be offered by the theatre. That was to eat a meal in the auditorium before the show. Although the play was wonderful, the food was disappointing. In 2018, the theatre is moving from behind the pub to a new location.

St Marys Church

St Marys Church

St Marys Church

St Marys Church

west end of St Marys Church

west end of St Marys Church

St Marys Church is opposite the pub. Its façade and steeple were built in the early 1750s to designs by Launcelot Dowbiggin (1685-1759). The rest of the church, having been destroyed by bombs in WW2, was rebuilt in a newer style designed by John Seely (1900-1963) and Paul Paget (1901-1985) in the early 1950s. The church’s post-war interior is worth visiting to enjoy its feeling of spaciousness and some paintings by Brian Thomas, who specialised in paintings for churches. Next to the church, is its large red brick vicarage, which was built when William Barlow (1833-1908) was the church’s vicar (from 1886-1902).

Vicarage of St Marys Church

Vicarage of St Marys Church

The Mitre Upper Str

The Mitre Upper Str

Former Old Parrs Head pub

Former Old Parrs Head pub

North of the church, there are two former pubs. The ‘Mitre’, which was already in existence by the mid-1850s, closed in about 2002. The ‘Old Parrs Head’, a Victorian pub, on the corner of Cross Street, now being used as a shop, retains its original ground floor tiling and lettering. It stopped serving drinks in 2007.

Almeida Theatre

Almeida Theatre

Almeida Street, named after a town in Portugal that featured in the Napoleonic Wars, is just north of Cross Street. It has become famous for its theatre, The Almeida. Formerly, the ‘Literary and Scientific Institute’ built 1837-38 by architects RL Roumieu (1814-1877) and AD Gough (1804-1871), this later became a music hall, then a Salvation Army ‘citadel’, and later a warehouse. In 1982, Burrell Foley and his colleagues converted this neo-classical building back into a theatre. Since then, it has undergone other ‘improvements’. Although it has a great reputation amongst its audiences and theatre critics, I do not like attending plays there. The auditorium is full of supporting pillars, and it is difficult to find a seat which does not have at least one of these in the line of sight between audience and stage.

Myddelton Hall  30 Almeida Str

Myddelton Hall 30 Almeida Str

Opposite the theatre there is a brick building with arched doorways and brick pilasters. This was formerly Myddelton Hall. It bears the date 1891. It contained an auditorium and a stage, and in 1892 it was licensed for musical performances (see: https://database.theatrestrust.org.uk/resources/theatres/show/2194-myddelton-hall). Part of its ground-floor now houses a restaurant.

Highbury Mansions

Highbury Mansions

Highbury Mansions on Upper Street is faced with decorative brickwork and stucco. The stucco is decorated with some terra-cotta coloured panels. Some of these bear the motto ‘labor omnia vincit’. For what reason, I cannot say. Nearby, on the corner of Upper Street and Waterloo Terrace, Waterloo House has its main entrance surmounted by a picturesque ogival arch.

Waterloo Hse 155 Upper Str

Waterloo Hse 155 Upper Str

Islington Town Hall

Islington Town Hall

Tyndale Mansions built 1926

Tyndale Mansions built 1926

The next major building on Upper Street is Islington Town hall, with its neo-classical stone façade. This was built in 1923 to the designs of Edward Monson (1872-1941), who also designed the nearby Tyndale Mansions (1926) with 102 flats. Almost opposite this residential complex, there is another one, a block of flats called Sutton Dwellings, which was built in 1917. This building was financed by The Sutton Model Dwellings Trust set up by William Sutton (1833-1900), the founder of Britain’s first door-to-door long-distance parcel delivery service.

Sutton Dwellings

Sutton Dwellings

Compton Terrace Gardens

Compton Terrace Gardens

The eastern side of the northern end of the road that began at Smithfield has a long thin garden, a pleasant shady strip with trees and planting beds called Compton Terrace Gardens. The facades of Compton Terrace (built from 1806 onwards) are interrupted midway by a gap that contains the Union Chapel.

Compton Terrace started 1806

Compton Terrace started 1806

Union Chapel

Union Chapel

The present Chapel, a fine, imposing Victorian gothic structure in brick and stone, was designed in the late 1870s by James Cubitt (1836-1912). His building replaced one of a series of earlier buildings (i.e. chapels), the first of which was built in 1806. The name ‘Union’ refers to the fact that the congregation was founded by a union of Anglicans and non-Conformists in 1799. The large church is also used for concerts. Sometime before 1993, I attended a concert at the Union Chapel. I was fortunate to see the minimalist composer Steve Reich (born 1936) performing music with his ensemble.

V1 memorial Highbury Corner

V1 memorial Highbury Corner

The northern end of Compton Terrace Gardens ends abruptly above a large, busy traffic roundabout at Highbury Corner. A plaque on the north facing wall of Compton Terrace recalls that on the 27th of June 1944 a German V1 flying bomb destroyed Highbury Corner, injured 150 people, and killed 26.

Old Highbury tube station

Old Highbury tube station

Our exploration ends at Highbury and Islington Station. Its present entrance was built in the 1960s. Opposite, there is a disused station entrance to ‘Highbury Station’ dated 1904, but closed in the late 1960s following the construction of the Victoria Line. Here we end a stroll that began in a part of London that was already developed in the 12th century, and end in another part, which was barely inhabited in the early 19th century. St Johns Street and its northern continuation, Upper Street, resemble the historical equivalent of a geological core sample, displaying different phases of London’s long history along its length.

Compton Terrace Gardens

Compton Terrace Gardens

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 00:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london market islington clerkenwell farringdon smithfield the__angel Comments (3)

BENEDICTINES, BASTIONS, AND BATA - a trip east of London

Barking in east London was once an important fishing port. East of it, East Tilbury once helped to defend London, and was also home to an industrial enterprise run in a novel way.

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In Saxon times (7th century AD) when the place first began to develop, East Tilbury was a settlement on a raised piece of land surrounded by marshes close to the River Thames. Where the church of St Catherine stands today, there may well have been a Roman settlement because the small village stands on what was once an ancient ridgeway running from Chelmsford in Essex to Higham in Kent. Once described as a “small town”, this now tiny village is an interesting place to visit, as I will explain soon. On my way to East Tilbury, I stopped off at Barking, which I will describe first.

Barking: old shop signs

Barking: old shop signs

Barking’s name derives from ‘Berecingum’ (meaning Berica’s people). Many of the town’s current multicultural population are unrelated to ‘Berica’s people’. Incidentally, it was Berica (aka: ‘Bericus’ or ‘Verica’), who was exiled from Britain in the first century AD, who persuaded helped persuade Claudius in Rome to attack Britain (see: “Roman Britain and the English Settlements”, by RG Collingwood and JNL Myres, publ. 1937).

Barking:  The Catch  by Loraine Leeson

Barking: The Catch by Loraine Leeson

Barking was one of the earliest Saxon settlements in Essex. For more than 500 years, before the development of railways that could transport fresh fish (without it rotting) from places further from London (e.g. Yarmouth), Barking’s most important industry was fishing. The town developed around Barking Abbey beside Barking Creek. It was to see the remains of this abbey that I visited Barking. However, on arrival there I took a wrong turn, and headed towards Barking Abbey School, where I assumed the abbey ruins were located.

To reach this school, I passed a large traffic roundabout in the centre of which there is a metal sculpture called “The Catch”. Designed by Loraine Leeson in 2002, the work consists of two net-like structures that contain many metallic fish. This piece of art celebrates the town’s historic association with fishing. Beyond the roundabout, there is an entrance to Barking Park on Longridge Road. The park was opened in 1898 by Barking Town Urban District Council. It is a vast, pleasant grassy open space with trees, a lake, and sporting facilities. Until 2005, it also boasted a miniature narrow-gauge railway.

Barking Park

Barking Park

When I had arrived at the end of the long park furthest from the station, I could see no signs of either an old abbey or directions to it. I entered the Royal Oak pub and asked the five people in it where I might find the ruined abbey. They looked at me blankly. They must have thought that I was barking mad.

Barking market

Barking market

I reassessed the situation with the help of the internet on my mobile telephone, and discovered that I had to retrace my steps to the station, and then go further through the centre of the town. A vibrant street market was in progress on East Street. All manner of merchandise was on sale (except books and CDs). People of many different ethnicities were either buying or selling. Part of the market was in a square in front of a Victorian brick building with gables and stone trimmings, bearing the date ‘1893’ and the name above its main entrance ‘Magistrates Court’. It is no longer used as a courthouse.

Barking Old Magistrates Court

Barking Old Magistrates Court

Barking Old Magistrates Court

Barking Old Magistrates Court

At the corner of East Street and the Broadway, near the Broadway Theatre, there is a shop whose upper floors are faced with decorative whitish stone in an art-deco design that includes pilasters topped with elephant heads.

Old Burtons store in Barking's East Street

Old Burtons store in Barking's East Street

This was once a branch of Burton’s menswear stores. It was built in 1931. This was the year that the firm adopted the Leeds based architectural firm of Harry Wilson as the company’s in-house architects. In 1937, Wilson was replaced by Nathaniel Martin. The Burton company favoured corner plots for their stores, as typified by their shop in Barking. Their shop exteriors were designed to look like ‘temples of commerce’.

Barking market

Barking market

Barking Town Hall tower

Barking Town Hall tower

The centre of Barking is overlooked by a tall brick clock-tower, which ‘sprouts’ from Barking Town Hall. This building was completed in 1958. Prior to 1931, when Barking became not only a town but also a borough, the town hall had been housed in what used to be the Magistrates Court (see above). Demolition of buildings to create a space for the present town hall began in 1939, but WW2 delayed further work on it. The present town hall’s construction began eventually in 1954. The building was designed by Herbert Jackson (1909-1989) and Reginald Edmonds.

Barking St Marys Cof E Church

Barking St Marys Cof E Church

Just opposite the former Burtons store, there is a park called Barking Abbey Grounds. This contains a graveyard and St Margarets Church, whose earliest parts date from the 13th century. It was built as a parish church in the grounds of Barking Abbey (see: http://www.stmargaretsbarking.org/the-abbey). The gothic church was enlarged greatly in the 15th and 16th centuries. The famous explorer Captain Cook was married there in 1762.

The Abbey was founded in the seventh century by Saint Erkenwald (Bishop of London from 675-193) for his sister Saint Ethelburga (died in about 686 AD). In 1173, Mary Beckett was made abbess of the nunnery, as a reparation for the murder of her brother, St Thomas à Beckett, in Canterbury Cathedral. At the time of the Dissolution, the Abbey was the largest Benedictine nunnery in England. The nunnery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Four years earlier, it had been the third most wealthy nunnery in England.

Barking Abbey Curfew Tower

Barking Abbey Curfew Tower

Barking Abbey view from Curfew Twr

Barking Abbey view from Curfew Twr

All that remains of the extensive abbey is a 12th century stone ‘rood’, which is now in the church, and the Curfew Tower. This stone tower with gothic features now functions as the entrance to the east side of the graveyard. Its construction began in the 14th century, and then it was reconstructed in 1460. Having seen what I wanted in Barking, I took a train to East Tilbury.

East Tilbury

East Tilbury

Older cottages East Tilbury

Older cottages East Tilbury

East Tilbury The Ship

East Tilbury The Ship

James Thorne wrote (in his “Handbook to the Environs of London”) in 1876: “East Tilbury is curiously out-of-the-way and old world like…”. It retains its feeling of being out-of-the-way, but no longer looks old world. Apart from the church, its rectory, and the fort, there are four cottages dated 1837. The rest of the buildings are much newer. The same goes for the village’s only pub, The Ship, which was rebuilt in 1957 when it looked the same as it does today. There has been an inn on its site since the 18th century, and maybe earlier. I had a mediocre lunch in the pub. I thought that was nowhere else to eat in the small village, but later discovered that the Fort (see below) has a café.

East Tilbury St Catharine

East Tilbury St Catharine

The flint and rubble gothic church of St Catherine contains much fabric dating back to mediaeval times, back to the 12th century. When viewed from the north or east, the church does not appear to have a tower. The reason is that the tower and part of the south aisle were destroyed by naval artillery in a battle between the British and the Dutch at Tilbury Hope in 1667. According to contemporaneous church records, by 1667 the tower was already in a poor state. Some say that it might have collapsed without the help of military intervention.

'Tower' of East Tilbury St Catharine

'Tower' of East Tilbury St Catharine

From the south side of the church, you can see an ugly square-based stone addition to the old church. This stump is all that was built of a replacement tower begun in the First World War by men of a garrison of the Coalhouse Fort (see below). It was to have commemorated those fallen in WW1. However, the authorities stopped the building works because the builders were not following correct procedures.

East Tilbury The Rectory

East Tilbury The Rectory

Across the road from the church, stands the Rectory, an elegant brick building with large windows. It was built in the early 1830s to replace an earlier one which had been badly damaged in the battle mentioned above.

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort

The village’s only thoroughfare continues downhill, almost to the north bank of the Thames. It ends at the car park for visitors to the Coalhouse Fort. During the early 15th century following an infiltration of the Thames by the French, King Henry IV allowed the inhabitants of East Tilbury, at that time classed as a ‘town’, to build defensive ramparts. In 1540, King Henry VIII ordered that a ‘blockhouse, be constructed at Coalhouse Point. This point on a curve in the Thames is so-named because by well before the 18th century coal was being unloaded from craft at this ferry point close to the village. The coal was transported westwards towards Grays and Chadwell along an ancient track known as the ‘Coal Road’.

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort bunker with Thames in background

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort bunker with Thames in background

In 1799, when it was feared that the French led by Napoleon Bonaparte would try to invade via the Thames, a new gun battery was built at East Tilbury. In the 1860s, when another French invasion was feared, a series of forts were built along the shores of the estuary of the Thames. One of these was the Coalhouse Fort at East Tilbury. Thus, the by then somewhat insignificant village became part of London’s defences.

The moat at Coalhouse Fort

The moat at Coalhouse Fort

The Fort was built between 1861 and ’74. Surrounded by a semi-circular moat and raised on a mound, the Fort is not particularly attractive. However, it is set in beautifully maintained parkland. From the slopes of the mound, there are great views of the Thames, which sweeps around the point, and its rural southern shore. The moat is separated into two sections by a short sharp-ridged stone wall, which was likely to have been built when the Fort began to be constructed.

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort

When I looked for the Fort on old detailed (25 inch to the mile) Ordnance Survey Maps (pre-1939), the moat is marked, but the Fort is not – probably, in the interests of security. A ‘Coalhouse Battery’, which ran more-or-less parallel to the village’s only street was marked as “dismantled” on a 1938 map, but not the Coalhouse Fort.

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort

The outer walls of the Fort have had all manner of later structures built on them: gun-emplacements, searchlight emplacements, and other shelters, whose functions were not obvious to me. There is a large concrete bunker outside the Fort, between it and the moat. Its shape might be described as three intersecting concrete blocks.

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort minefield control tower with Thames in background

East Tilbury Coalhouse Fort minefield control tower with Thames in background

This is marked on the tourist map as a ‘minefield control tower’. I believe that was it used to control electrically-fired mines in the estuary. Nearby and closer to the river, there is a smaller concrete bunker.

Coal House Fort East Tilbury

Coal House Fort East Tilbury

The Fort’s interior was closed when I visited it, but I was able to get a peek through its main gates, which were open. Tramway tracks lead into the Fort. Old maps show that these led from the Fort to a small landing stage at Coalhouse Point, which is a short distance southwest of the Fort. The Fort ceased to be used after 1957.

Bata factory

Bata factory

Just over a mile north-west of the Fort, the road to East Tilbury Station passes through a most fascinating place. One of the first things you will see along the road from the Fort is a vast factory, which closed in 2005. Made of concrete and glass, but in a poor state of decoration, its flat roof carries a high water-tower labelled ‘Bata’. This was part of the factory complex that the Bata Company began building in 1932.

Bata factory gatehouse

Bata factory gatehouse

Bata factory

Bata factory

Bata factory buildings

Bata factory buildings

The Czech Thomas Bata (1876-1932) was born in the Moravian town of Zlin. He became the founder of Bata Shoes in 1894 in Zlin. He modernised shoe-making by moving it from a craftsman’s process to and mechanised, industrialised one. Bata’s company also revolutionised the way industrial enterprises were run, introducing a profit-sharing system that involved all of its workers, and provided a good reason for them to work enthusiastically. During the period between the two World Wars, the forward-thinking Bata opened factories and individual companies in countries including: Poland, Yugoslavia, India, France, Holland, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the USA. The company in India is still very active, almost every small town or village having at least one Bata retailing outlet. I have bought many pairs of comfortable Bata-manufactured shoes from Bata stores in India.

Bata factory building

Bata factory building

In anticipation of WW2, Bata’s son, the prudent Thomas J Bata (1914-1980), and one hundred other Czech families firm moved to Ontario (Canada) to form a Canadian Bata company. After WW2, the Communist regimes in Czechoslovakia and other ‘iron-curtain’ countries nationalised their local Bata firms. Meanwhile, Thomas J continued to develop the Bata firms in Canada and the UK, and opened up new Bata companies and factories in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

Bata workers' houses

Bata workers' houses

Bata workers' houses

Bata workers' houses

Bata senior was keen on the ‘Garden City Movement’. He was concerned that his workers lived (close to his factories) and worked in a pleasant environment, and lacked for nothing. A pioneer of this in the UK was Titus Salt, who built his gigantic mill in the 1860s near Bradford in West Yorkshire. He created a new town, Saltaire, around his textile factory. This consisted of better than average homes for all of his workers (and their families) from the humblest to the most senior. In addition, he built schools, a hospital, open-spaces, recreation halls, a church, and other requisite of Victorian life. In Zlin, Bata created something similar, a fully-equipped town for his workers in park-like surroundings around his factory in the 1920s. The homes he built for the workers are still considered desirable today.

Bata workers' houses

Bata workers' houses

The factory at East Tilbury, was another example of a town built specially for its workers. One lady with whom I spoke there told me that she had worked for Bata’s for twenty-seven years. She told me that in its heyday the Bata ‘town’ was self-sufficient. It had workers’ homes, shopping facilities (including a supermarket and a Bata shoe store), a restaurant, a hotel, a cinema, a school, a library, farms, and playing fields.

The factory buildings at the East Tilbury site, some of which have been adopted by other businesses, were built using a construction system devised (employing reinforced concrete frames that allowed for great flexibility of design) by the Czechs Frantisek Lydie Gahura (1891-1958), Jan Kotera(1871-1923), and Vladimir Karfic(1901-1996). The site bought by Bata in Essex in late 1931 was ideally placed in level open country near to both the railway and the river. His intention was to build a vast garden city around his factories, which was to produce boots and shoes in East Tilbury.

Mr Bata senior was killed in an air-crash in 1932 near Zlin, and so never saw the completion of his creation in Essex, whose construction only began in early 1933. Construction of the factory buildings and the workers’ housing went on simultaneously. By 1934, twenty semi-detached houses of the same design as those in Zlin were built by local builders, and equipped with Czech fittings. The houses look just like many houses built in Central Europe. As Steve Rose wrote in The Guardian newspaper (19th June 2006):
“East Tilbury doesn’t look like it belongs in Britain, let alone Essex, and in a sense it doesn’t. It’s a little slice of 1930s Czechoslovakia, and the most Modern town in Britain.”
Later, more homes were built, but designed like many British suburban houses.

Former Bata Hotel and supermarket

Former Bata Hotel and supermarket

There is a huge building across the main road opposite the factory buildings. Part of its ground floor is now home to a Co-op supermarket. The whole building, which has now been converted to flats, was the ‘Bata Hotel’. Until recently, the Co-op was still named the Bata supermarket. One man, who has lived in the Bata Estate for many years, told me that he recalled seeing swarms of workmen in white protective clothing crossing the road from the factory and then entering the hotel during their lunch-break. He told me that the first floor of the hotel was a ‘restaurant’ for the factory workers. I met this man in what is now called ‘East Tilbury Village Hall’. This was formerly the Bata cinema.

Bata cinema

Bata cinema

Foyer of Bata cinema

Foyer of Bata cinema

Bata cinema entrance seen from foyer

Bata cinema entrance seen from foyer

Looking somewhat Central European in design, the former cinema was undergoing much-needed electrical re-fitting. In a way, I was lucky because the workers had left the door open to a building that is often locked closed these days. I entered the foyer, which was being used to store the stock of the local public library. An office to the left of the foyer used to serve as the cinema’s ticket office. A couple of old-fashioned film posters have been put on the foyer’s walls to recreate what it used to be like.

Bata cinema hall stage

Bata cinema hall stage

Bata cinema stage original stage lights

Bata cinema stage original stage lights

Bata cinema stage original lighting controls

Bata cinema stage original lighting controls

A man, who oversaw the hall’s maintenance, showed me the auditorium. It had a new wooden floor marked out for indoor sports. He explained that the floor had been ‘sprung’ when it was laid originally. This was so that it could be used as a dance-floor. The banked chairs for the audience were originally designed in an ingenious way, only lately beginning to be employed in other much newer buildings, so that they could be folded away when the hall was needed for, for example, a dance. There was a proper theatre stage at the far end of the hall. This still has the original stage lights that were fitted when the hall was built. The old-fashioned control panel for this lighting was still in place.

Bata cinema stairs to bunker under stage

Bata cinema stairs to bunker under stage

Bata cinema thick walls of under stage bunker

Bata cinema thick walls of under stage bunker

My guide then told me that beneath the stage, there was a reinforced bunker for use during air-raids. He took me through a door at the back of the stage, and then down some concrete steps. At the bottom, there was a heavy metal sliding-door painted grey. He slid this open to reveal the large reinforced concrete bunker beneath the stage. Its walls were thick. It is now used as a storage area.

Bata war memorial WW2

Bata war memorial WW2

After seeing the old cinema, I entered the large grassy area to the south of it. In the centre of it, raised on a stepped plinth, there is a war memorial. The memorial bears the words: “… to the memory of those of the British Bata Shoe Company who gave their lives for freedom 1939-1945”. To the south of the memorial park, there is a large field, now used for agricultural purposes, that was once a Bata playing field.

Thomas Bata memorial

Thomas Bata memorial

Across the road from the war memorial in the grounds of the factory, there is a statue of Thomas Bata senior, who died in 1932. When I visited it many years ago (in the late 1980s), it stood in a small green area, a little park. During my recent visit (October 2017) it was surrounded by tall piles of sand being used by building contractors.

Some of the Bata factory buildings have already been modernised and are being used for industrial or commercial operations. The main large derelict building, which is surmounted by a water tank, might be destined for conversion into ‘loft apartments’ for residential use. One building, a small tall construction near the main road, remains derelict at present. It might, one informant suggested, have been used for milling activities.

Bata workers houses

Bata workers houses

During the early 1980s, British Bata began greatly reducing its production activity at East Tilbury. The Bata industrial estate finally closed in 2005. With the closing of the British Bata firm, Bata shoe-retailers, which were common in British high streets, have disappeared. The nearest Bata shoe store to the UK is now in Best (just north of Eindhoven) in the Netherlands.

From having been one of the bastions defending London from naval attack along the River Thames, East Tilbury became home for an exciting and successful industrial enterprise. Now, the extensive vestiges of this are being restored and re-used in an attempt, which looks like being successful, to keep the area alive and prosperous.

Bata Avenue East Tilbury

Bata Avenue East Tilbury

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 03:32 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london shoes bata essex barking garden_city east_tilbury coalhouse_fort Comments (3)

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.

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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)

OTTOMAN HERITAGE & A RIVER THAT'S NOT A RIVER

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

An Orthodox priest Green Lanes

An Orthodox priest Green Lanes

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

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

Turnpike Lane station

Turnpike Lane station

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

Turnpike Lane station ventilation grid

Turnpike Lane station ventilation grid

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

Ducketts Common

Ducketts Common

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

Ducketts Common

Ducketts Common

Liberty Church  Frobisher Rd, formerly the Premier Electric Theatre

Liberty Church Frobisher Rd, formerly the Premier Electric Theatre

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

Former Queens Head pub Green Lanes

Former Queens Head pub Green Lanes

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

Bulgarian cafes on Green Lanes

Bulgarian cafes on Green Lanes

Inter4national Food Green Lanes

Inter4national Food Green Lanes

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

Simits from a Turkish bakery in Green Lanes

Simits from a Turkish bakery in Green Lanes

Albanian pizzeria (Durazzo) on Green Lanes

Albanian pizzeria (Durazzo) on Green Lanes

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

Hindu temple Green Lanes

Hindu temple Green Lanes

Hindu temple Green Lanes

Hindu temple Green Lanes

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

Bardhoshi Albanian restaurant Green Lanes

Bardhoshi Albanian restaurant Green Lanes

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

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

Bread cheese and pickles at Bardhoshi

Bread cheese and pickles at Bardhoshi

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

Turkish Cypriot Association Green Lanes

Turkish Cypriot Association Green Lanes

Turkish dental surgery Green Lanes

Turkish dental surgery Green Lanes

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

Turkish Bank Green Lanes

Turkish Bank Green Lanes

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

Former laundry on Green Lanes

Former laundry on Green Lanes

Bulgarian grocery Green Lanes

Bulgarian grocery Green Lanes

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

Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

Staircase to Legends Gym in Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

Staircase to Legends Gym in Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

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

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

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

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Bakery, Green Lanes

Bakery, Green Lanes

Turkish confectionery shop, Green Lanes

Turkish confectionery shop, Green Lanes

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

Turkish shops Green Lanes

Turkish shops Green Lanes

Making gözleme in Green Lanes

Making gözleme in Green Lanes

Green Lanes Station

Green Lanes Station

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

Beaconsfield pub Green Lanes

Beaconsfield pub Green Lanes

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

Finsbury Park viewed from Green Lanes

Finsbury Park viewed from Green Lanes

New River in Finsbury Park, viewed from Green Lanes

New River in Finsbury Park, viewed from Green Lanes

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

New River near Eade Road

New River near Eade Road

New River by Eade Road

New River by Eade Road

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

New River Studios

New River Studios

New River Seven Sisters Rd bridge

New River Seven Sisters Rd bridge

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

Bunker on New River at Seven Sisters Rd Bridge

Bunker on New River at Seven Sisters Rd Bridge

New River: The Sanctuary at Amhurst Park

New River: The Sanctuary at Amhurst Park

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

New River graffiti near Newnton Close

New River graffiti near Newnton Close

Newnton Close bridge over New River

Newnton Close bridge over New River

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

Woodberry Wetlands

Woodberry Wetlands

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

East Reservoir from Woodberry Wetlands

East Reservoir from Woodberry Wetlands

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

Ivy House Sluice New River

Ivy House Sluice New River

Ivy House Sluice New River

Ivy House Sluice New River

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

Modern sluice mechanism New River and East Reservoir

Modern sluice mechanism New River and East Reservoir

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

Coal House Cafe on East Reservoir

Coal House Cafe on East Reservoir

Large birds on East reservoir

Large birds on East reservoir

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

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

New River flowing from Lordship Lane Br south

New River flowing from Lordship Lane Br south

New River Riverside Gardens

New River Riverside Gardens

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

View across West reservoir to Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre

View across West reservoir to Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre

Family group on New River near West reservoir

Family group on New River near West reservoir

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

Paddling on West reservoir

Paddling on West reservoir

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

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes

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

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

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

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

Brownswood pub Green Lanes

Brownswood pub Green Lanes

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

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

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

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

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

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

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

House at Clissold Park

House at Clissold Park

House at Clissold Park

House at Clissold Park

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

Aviary at Clissold Park

Aviary at Clissold Park

Drinking fountain at Clissold Park

Drinking fountain at Clissold Park

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

HARRING 9l Clissold Park pump house

HARRING 9l Clissold Park pump house

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

White House pub now closed on Green Lanes

White House pub now closed on Green Lanes

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

East Reservoir looking north

East Reservoir looking north

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 06:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london turkey cyprus albania bulgaria haringey harringay clissold_park new_river Comments (7)

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