A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about london

EXPLORING KENSINGTON'S RACE-COURSE

During a search for traces of Kensington's former 'Hippodrome' racecourse in Notting Hill, many interesting sights were discovered and explored.

This piece is largely based on a walk that I made on the afternoon of the 13th of June 2017, when I strolled right past the Grenfell Tower housing block. That night, it was to become engulfed in flames. I dedicate this essay to the memory of all those people who perished, or otherwise suffered, because of this horrendously tragic disaster.

Ladbroke Square Garden

Ladbroke Square Garden

In the mid-eighteenth century, Richard Ladbroke (brother of the banker Robert Ladbroke) of Tadworth in Surrey acquired a huge plot of land, countryside, in Kensington (for detailed history, see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol37/pp194-200). After Richard, who was extremely wealthy, died, the so-called ‘Ladbroke Estate’ passed into the hands of James Weller Ladbroke. The latter kept the estate until his death in 1847. During the several decades that James owned the land, there was much building-work done on it, making the estate (a large part of Notting Hill) much as it is today. It was during his ownership of the land that the short-lived Hippodrome race course was laid out on an as yet unbuilt part of his estate.

Before 1836, the nearest horse-racing course to London was at Epsom Downs, where races had been held since 1661, or maybe earlier (see: http://epsom.thejockeyclub.co.uk/more-information/about). Epsom is about twenty miles from Trafalgar Square, several hours by horse and carriage. In 1836, Mr John Whyte took a twenty-one year lease on at least 140 acres of the then undeveloped part of the Ladbroke Estate. He built a race-course, the ‘Hippodrome’, which was far more easily accessible than Epsom to all Londoners. One problem that Whyte encountered, and it gave rise to a lot of trouble, was that a public footpath ran across his course, which, understandably, he wanted to surround by a fence. This trouble arose in the potteries and their surrounding slums, which were to the immediate west of the race-course. Despite this problem, racing began at the Hippodrome in June 1837. Because of continuing agitation by local protesters, a considerable police presence was required at race-meetings. At one point, in 1838, Whyte considered building a subway beneath his course to get around the footpath problem. In May 1842, after only thirteen race-meetings in five years, Whyte admitted failure, and relinquished the lease. For a short while, the race-course returned to being countryside, and then James Weller Ladbroke allowed building on it to commence with a vengeance (this simplified history extracted from: http://www.housmans.com/booklists/Entrance%20to%20Hipp%20Vague%2044.pdf).

In what follows, we shall explore the area around and upon the land, which was once the Hippodrome. To do this, it is necessary to know where the race-course was. Several detailed maps contemporary with the Hippodrome exist, but were drawn long before the present road layout existed. Superimposing the old maps with current ones is not easy, but it gives us a rough idea of where the former racecourse lay. However, given that almost all the landmarks drawn on the old maps have disappeared, some intelligent guesswork is required. In the description of my walk around the area, I will point out the possible (but not by any means certain) sites of places associated with the old Hippodrome. Let us begin near Holland Park, which was never part of the racecourse.

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station on the Central Line is housed in an attractive low building on Holland Park Avenue. It opened in 1900, and was one of several Central Line stations designed by Harry Bell Measures (1862-1940). The tops of the pilasters between the windows on the north side of the station are decorated with gargoyle-like sculpted faces.

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Almost opposite this side of the building, there is a tall building with distinctive chimneys, Lansdowne House on Lansdowne Road.

Lansdowne House

Lansdowne House

Lansdowne House was designed by architect William Flockhart (1852-1913), and built for the Australian millionaire Sir Edmund Davis (1861-1939), who lived at 9 Lansdowne Road (see: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/visitkensingtonandchelsea/seedo/people/blueplaques/recordsh-l/lansdownehouse.aspx). He was a mining financier and an art enthusiast. He built Lansdowne house, which contains six flats with two-storey artists’ studios and other amenities.

Artists who lived in Lansdowne House

Artists who lived in Lansdowne House

They attracted up-and-coming artists, a few of whom are named on the blue plaque attached to the building. None of their names mean anything to me.

Holland Park Avenue

Holland Park Avenue

Holland Park Avenue, a part of the old West Road running between London and Oxford, was developed in the nineteenth century. Lined with mature shady trees, this avenue runs alongside many fine buildings.

On  Holland Park Avenue

On Holland Park Avenue

A statue of the Ukranian Saint Volodmyr stands outside the Hotel Ravna Gora (named after one of several places with that name in the Balkans). Volodmyr ruled the Ukraine as king between 980 and 1015 AD.

St Volodmyr Holland Park Ave

St Volodmyr Holland Park Ave

His statue was put up in 1988 to celebrate St Volodmyr’s establishment of Christianity in the Ukraine in 988 AD. It was sculpted by the Ukrainian-born Leonid Molodoshanin (aka ‘Leo Mol’; 1915-2009).

The Benns lived here

The Benns lived here

Further up the hill, we reach the home of the late Anthony (‘Tony’) Benn (1925-2014) and his wife Caroline (née De Camp; 1926-2000). With its front door painted appropriately in red, this is where two active, intelligent socialists lived their last years. It is worth noting in passing that these leaders of the left in the UK lived in a valuable home in a very prosperous part of London. Almost opposite, but a little way uphill, is the house where the artist James McBey (1883-1959) lived in the 1930s. Its large studio windows face north to catch what many artists believe to be the best light for working.

Camden Hill Tower

Camden Hill Tower

Notting Hill Gate at the top end of Holland Park Avenue is dominated by a residential tower block, Campden Hill Towers. This unattractive building is, and has always been, privately owned, despite it looking as if it might once have been social housing. It was erected in the early 1960s, or, maybe, late 1950s. I remember visiting a schoolfriend who lived there sometime before 1965. Little did I know it then but my future wife and her family were also living in a flat there at the time. Then during my visit, I was particularly impressed that he lived in a two-storey apartment high above the ground. It was the first time I had ever seen a ‘duplex’ flat. The building is not the only eyesore in Notting Hill Gate. It competes in ugliness with nearby Newcombe House.

Notting Hill mural

Notting Hill mural

Just west of the Towers, there is a lovely mural in a narrow alleyway. This was painted by Barney McMahon in 1997 (see: http://www.tiredoflondontiredoflife.com/2014/05/see-notting-hills-barney-mcmahon-mural.html). The alleyway runs alongside Marks and Spencer’s food store, which was once the building that housed Damien Hirst’s original (in all senses of the word) Pharmacy Restaurant (now re-created and updated at the Newport Street Gallery, near Lambeth Palace).

The Coronet

The Coronet

Fortunately, the area has at least one lovely building, the former ‘Coronet Cinema’. This was designed as a theatre by WGR Sprague (1863-1933) who designed many of London’s theatres. It opened in 1908. By 1923, the Coronet had become a cinema, and remained so for many years. Apart from the screen, the fittings inside the auditorium were those of an unmodernised Edwardian theatre. Until smoking was banned in all public places, the Coronet was one of the last cinemas in London which permitted smoking (but only in the balcony seating). Between 2004 and 2014, the Coronet doubled up as both a branch of the Kensington Temple Church and, also, as a cinema. And, in 2015 the Coronet reverted to being used as a theatre, now called ‘The Print Room’. This theatre puts on interesting plays, which are well-produced.

In The Gate Cinema

In The Gate Cinema

Close to the Coronet, enclosed in an ugly modern building, is The Gate Cinema. Its beautiful old auditorium was converted in 1911 from a former Italian restaurant, which had been designed in 1861 by William Hancock. The foyer and the offices built over the cinema were built in 1962 by the architects Douton and Hurst. By now, you may be wondering what happened to the Hippodrome, which I promised you earlier on. Your patience will be rewarded soon.

Prince Albert pub

Prince Albert pub

The popular Prince Albert pub on Pembridge Road, where Kensington Park Road begins, has a small alternative theatre, ‘The Gate’, on its first floor. The early 19th century pub and its former brewery stood close to the beginning of a long footpath or track that led to the public entrance of the Hippodrome. This and the pub is recorded on maps drawn while the race-course was in existence. A green-painted wooden ‘cabmen’s shelter’, now used as a café, stands in the middle of Kensington Park Road close to the Prince Albert. This shelter is believed to be located very close to the spot where the path to the Hippodrome’s public entrance began. The path would have run in a northwest direction towards the course’s entrance.

Cabmen's Shelter Kensington Park Road

Cabmen's Shelter Kensington Park Road

Directly opposite the cabmen’s shelter, there is the Kensington Temple. This is a Pentecostal church, which was built originally as the ‘Horbury Chapel’ in 1849. Its neighbour on Ladbroke Grove is the Mercury Theatre (building erected in 1851). This was opened in 1933 by Ashley Dukes (1885-1959), who was deeply involved in theatre. The theatre, which put on plays until 1956, was also used by Duke’s wife the Polish-born ballet dancer and teacher Marie Rambert (1888-1982). It was the birthplace and home (until 1987) of her world-famous Ballet Rambert.

The Mercury Theatre

The Mercury Theatre

Kensington Park Road, which did not exist at the time of the Hippodrome, leads past Ladbroke Square with its huge private garden to the neo-classical St Peters Church designed by Thomas Allom (1804-1872). It was built 1855-57 when much of the Ladbroke Estate had been covered with houses.

St Peters Notting Hill

St Peters Notting Hill

The church stands opposite the short Stanley Gardens. Where the latter meets Stanley Crescent is close to where the public entrance to the Hippodrome is believed to have been.

Stanley Crescent seen from Stanley Gardens - approximate position of the public entrance to the Hippodrome

Stanley Crescent seen from Stanley Gardens - approximate position of the public entrance to the Hippodrome

Ladbroke Grove, just west of Stanley Crescent crosses much of what would have been the eastern part of the Hippodrome. The Grove rises from Holland Park Avenue to a summit close to St Johns Church, which was built on Hippodrome Land in 1845, very soon after the racecourse closed. It was designed in a gothic style by John Hargreaves Stevens and George Alexander.

St Johns Notting Hill

St Johns Notting Hill

St Johns interior

St Johns interior

It is widely believed that the hill upon which this church perches was the public grandstand from which the entire racecourse could be seen from above. Far below it, and on the far side of the course, roughly where Clarendon Road runs today, there was “… an enclosure for carriages of the Royal Family”. This is marked on a 1841 map of the Hippodrome. This map, published in the “Sporting Review” of 1841, shows the Hippodrome as having a common starting and finishing track that ran in a north-south direction, and three parallel loops that ran off it at its northern end to produce tracks varying in length from one to two miles.

It has been suggested to me that at least one of these loops (it would have to be the one mile loop) ran where the curved section of Lansdowne Road runs today. I cannot comment on this. The 1841 map shows a “Road to Stables” leading from what is now Holland Park Avenue into what is now either Pottery Lane or its close parallel Portland Road. “Hippodrome Stables” is marked between these two lanes on an 1860 map (see: http://www.theundergroundmap.com/map.html?item=1&id=956). This is close to the spots marked as “Judges Stand”, “Saddling Paddock and Stables”, and “Starting Post”, on the 1841 map.

Montpelier Gardens on Lansdowne Rise

Montpelier Gardens on Lansdowne Rise

Lansdowne Rise descends from the hill where the spectators used to stand towards Clarendon Road. It passes across a private garden named ‘Montpelier Garden’, which is probably growing on land that might well have been a part of the long straight stretch of the racecourse. The 1860 map marks the Rise as being then called ‘Montpelier Road’.

Clarendon Works brickworks, Clarendon Cross

Clarendon Works brickworks, Clarendon Cross

A red brick building on the short Clarendon Cross bears the name ‘Clarendon Works’. This was a Victorian brick-making factory. It has been tastefully converted into luxury apartments. Its location is not accidental, as you will soon discover. Clarendon Cross leads to a pleasant little intersection shaded by trees and surrounded by a few shops.

Clarendon Cross

Clarendon Cross

Hippodrome Place

Hippodrome Place

The continuation of Clarendon Cross is the very short Hippodrome Place. On the 1860 map, it was marked as “Clarendon Place”, but by 1900 it had acquired its present name.

Hippodrome Mews

Hippodrome Mews

It is very close to Hippodrome Mews, which apart from its name and being close to the site of the former Hippodrome but outside its bounds, displays no evidence of having been part of the Hippodrome.

Pottery Lane

Pottery Lane

Pottery Lane gets its name from the fact that it led to the potteries that ran alongside the western edge of the Hippodrome. There are two buildings of interest in the lane. One is the former ‘Earl of Zetland’ pub, which served drinkers between 1849 and 2009. It has now been converted for other purposes.

Earl of Zetland in  Pottery Lane

Earl of Zetland in Pottery Lane

Across the road from it is the Roman Catholic St Francis of Assisi Church. In the 1840s and the 1850s, the Roman Catholic population of west London increased greatly. This church was built in 1860 to address their spiritual needs.

St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi

During the second half of the nineteenth century and before, this part of Notting Hill close to the potteries (and some piggeries), known as ‘Notting Dale’, was very impoverished and the haunt of many people involved in unlawful activities. It was people from this area, who tried disrupting races on the Hippodrome because of the disputed footpath crossing it (see above). The church’s interesting website (see: http://www.stfrancisnottinghill.org.uk/history/) relates:
“During this period the ‘West London News’ reported that “If the church of St. Francis be of gloomy aspect, it certainly throws a gleam – a ray of hope – on the outside moral darkness in the midst of which it is situated.”
Although the outside of the neo-gothic church is not eye-catching, it is worth entering its peaceful small courtyard and the church itself.

Inside St Francis of Assisi

Inside St Francis of Assisi

Apart from a road name, nothing remains of the potteries and brickfields in the area except one solitary kiln on Walmer Road. A plaque attached to it describes it as a ‘bottle kiln’. It is shaped like the neck and top of a wine bottle. Although very few of these exist in London, another one can be seen at the Fulham Pottery next to Putney Bridge Underground Station.

Pottery kiln

Pottery kiln

Kiln plaque

Kiln plaque

Avondale Park is opposite the Kiln. The park was created in the 1890s on the site that had formerly been a fetid pool, an area filled with slurries from the nearby piggeries and Adams’ Brickfields (see: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/parks/avondale-park). The Adams family, who leased the land for their brickfields, also leased the 140 acre Portobello Farm located at the northern end of the present Portobello Road roughly south of Golborne Road. Incidentally, the name ‘Portobello’ commemorates Admiral Vernon’s victory over the Spanish in 1739 at the Battle of Porto Belo in Central America. It is ironic that today many Spanish people live in the Portobello area. Many of them were anti-fascist Spaniards escaping from General Franco. A monument to the Spanish Civil war in the form of a mural made in mosaic can be seen on Portobello Road under the Westway overhead bridge.

Avondale Park

Avondale Park

Avondale Park pavilion

Avondale Park pavilion

Avondale park contains a series of circular wood-clad buildings that look like inverted cones, and are linked together by a lovely curved, flat roof. These round structures, which comprise a ‘pavilion’, contain lavatories and storage rooms. They were designed by Mangera Yvars Architects in 2010, and then built shortly afterwards. In 2009, gardeners working on the deep roots of a tree stumbled across a long-forgotten WW2 bunker under the park. It would have been able to accommodate about 200 people, but few locals remember its existence (for full story, see: https://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/secrets-of-avondale-park/).

Kensington Leisure Centre

Kensington Leisure Centre

Walmer Road leads north to the beautiful new Kensington Leisure Centre on the east side of Lancaster Green. This building, which covered externally with multiple, parallel, slender, vertical concrete slabs was opened in 2015, is very pleasing to the eye. It was designed by LA Architects (of East Sussex).

Old foundation stone near Kensington Leisure Centre

Old foundation stone near Kensington Leisure Centre

Close to the buildings in the grassy Lancaster Green, there is an old piece of masonry, a foundation stone for a former Kensington ‘Public Baths and Wash-Houses’ that was laid in 1886. These baths used to stand close to the newly built centre.

Kensington Aldridge Academy

Kensington Aldridge Academy

Notting Hill Methodist Church

Notting Hill Methodist Church

Near to the Leisure Centre, stands another new, colourful building, a school: the Kensington Aldridge Academy. This is a coeducational state secondary school sponsored by the Aldridge Foundation. It has been in existence since 2014. Its building was designed by London-based Studio E Architects. Close to this, stands Notting Hill Methodist Church. Its single slender tower recalls the appearance of minarets. It was built between 1878 and 1879.

Grenfell Tower, destroyed by fire on 16 June 2016

Grenfell Tower, destroyed by fire on 16 June 2016

The church, the Academy, and the Leisure Centre, all stand in the shadow of Grenfell Tower, a twenty-four storey residential tower block erected between 1972 and ’74. When I was taking photographs of the Leisure Centre on the afternoon of Tuesday the 13th of June 2017, I barely noticed the block which I was standing in front of. It was just another unexceptional tower block that I thought was not worthy of my attention. That night, it and many of its inhabitants were destroyed by fire that rapidly engulfed it. It is not yet known how many people have perished in the inferno – maybe, we will never know. It has left hundreds of people homeless, bereft of all their material possessions, and mourning for their neighbours and loved ones. The cause of the conflagration and the resulting disaster, which falls into the same category of tragedy as the ‘Twin Towers’ disaster in New York City, has yet to be determined. Now, all that remains of the building is a blackened concrete skeleton. I hope that none of the local schoolchildren I watched entering the Leisure Centre that fateful Tuesday afternoon have become victims of the fire.

Bramley Road: 'new' WALMER HOUSE

Bramley Road: 'new' WALMER HOUSE

West of the disaster area, we reach Bramley Road. Just after it passes under the elevated Westway, one of Europe’s earliest elevated highways – a modern race-track that crosses part of the former Hippodrome, we come across Walmer House. This ageing brick-built block of flats stands a little to the west of a now demolished Walmer House that used to stand on the western stretch of Walmer Road. The older Walmer House, the former Episcopal Palace of the Bishop of Norwich, is marked on a 1900 map as “Jews Deaf and Dumb Home”. This was founded in 1863 in Bloomsbury (see: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/bloomsbury-project/institutions/jews_deaf_and_dumb_home.htm) by Baroness Mayer de Rothschild. Its purpose was to teach deaf and dumb resident Jewish children to speak. The school moved to the Walmer House in Walmer Road in 1875, and then to Nightingale Lane (Balham) in 1899. It closed in 1965.

Derelict house Bramley Road

Derelict house Bramley Road

Just before Bramley Road becomes St Helen’s Gardens, there is a dilapidated house set back from the road next to Robinson House. It bears a crest with the letters “W” or “H” and “R” and the date 1894. According to Dave Walker, a historian at Kensington Central Library, this has been used as a garage and for light industrial purposes over the years since the beginning of the twentieth century. It stands just south of the probable southern boundary of the northern section of the long-gone Hippodrome racetrack.

Scampston Mews

Scampston Mews

St Helens Gardens rises gently in an almost northerly direction, crossing what was once the north-western section of the Hippodrome. Scampston Mews, which is close to the southern end of this road, is built on land that was part of the Hippodrome. The mews are not shown as existing on a detailed 1860 map, but they do appear on a 1900 map.

St Helens Church

St Helens Church

The mainly gothic, brick St Helens Church at the top of St Helens Gardens was rebuilt in 1956 (architect: JS Sebastian Comper) on the site of an earlier church, built in 1884 and destroyed during WW2. It stood close to the former Notting Barn Farm, which shared its southern boundary with the northern boundary of the Hippodrome. The farm, which certainly existed in the 18th century and was close to Portobello Farm to its east, disappeared from maps, leaving no material trace, in the 1880s (see: https://northkensingtonhistories.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/the-st-quintin-park-estate/).

The Garden next to Latymer Road Station

The Garden next to Latymer Road Station

Retracing our steps down St Helen’s Gardens and Bramley Road, we reach Latymer Road Underground Station. It opened in 1868. Oddly, it is nowhere near to Latimer Road. It is almost half a mile south of any road named ‘Latimer’. However, when it was built, it was much closer, as I will explain soon. While at the station, you should enter the nearby ‘Garden Bar and Café’, which is housed in a former pub, the ‘Station Hotel’, which has been in existence since the 1860s. The Café, which is owned by an Albanian friend of mine, serves excellent Mediterranean food, which may be eaten inside or in a lovely sheltered back garden.

Lockton Street doorway

Lockton Street doorway

A narrow lane, Lockton Street, connects Bramley Road with nearby Freston Road. On one side, Lockton Street is lined by railway arches, and on the other by newly built apartment blocks with attractive street entrance gates.

Former Holy Trinity Church Freston Rd 1887

Former Holy Trinity Church Freston Rd 1887

Freston Road used to be called ‘Latimer Road’, and therefore the station near it was aptly named. Walking northwards along Freston Road, one cannot miss a large red brick neo-gothic building, which has housed ‘The Harrow Club’ since 1967. This used to be the Holy Trinity Church, which was built to the designs of R Norman Shaw (1831-1912), architect of the first ‘New Scotland Yard’) between 1887 and 1889.

Former Latymer Road School Freston Street 1879

Former Latymer Road School Freston Street 1879

Further north on the eastern side of Freston Road, stands the former ‘Latymer Road School’, a massive brick building with roof gables. This was built in 1880 by the school board. Now, it is used as a ‘pupil support centre’.

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. Eton fives courts

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. Eton fives courts

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. An Eton fives court

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. An Eton fives court

Just beyond the school, Freston Road ends and becomes a footpath that winds its way between public sporting facilities. Amongst the tennis courts and other parts of the Westway Fitness Centre, there is a row of four Eton Fives courts, such as we had at my (private) secondary school in Highgate. Originally an elitist game, the Centre is making attempts to popularise this sport, which very faintly resembles squash except that the ball is hit with gloved hands.

Under Westway / A3220 interchange

Under Westway / A3220 interchange

The footpath then passes under the curving concrete bridges that carry the overhead roads which connect the Westway with the West Cross Route, which carries traffic south to the Shepherds Bush roundabout. Eventually, the path emerges north of Westway close to the former Latimer Arms Pub, which closed in the 1990s. It was already open for business in the early 1870s (see: http://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/Kensington/LatimerArms.shtml).

Former Latimer Arms pub

Former Latimer Arms pub

Under Westway / A3220 interchange: Travellers' site, Stable Way

Under Westway / A3220 interchange: Travellers' site, Stable Way

The beginning of Stable Way is near the former pub. It leads in a southwards direction, threading its way beneath the road bridges and between car repair workshops with many derelict vehicles. At its southern end is the Westway Traveller Site. This was built in 1976 (see: http://www.travellermovement.org.uk/pavee/images/pdfs/my_site_westway.pdf) to replace an unauthorised site that had been favoured mostly by Irish gypsies and ‘Travellers’ for centuries. Now, it is exclusively occupied by Irish Travellers. In 1981, the Travellers took Kensington and Chelsea Council to court to try to prove the unsuitability of the site, being as it is, surrounded by vehicles emitting noxious exhaust fumes. The Council won.

Former Bramley Arms

Former Bramley Arms

Retracing our steps, we return to Freston Road. Where this road meets Bramley road at a sharp angle, stands the ‘Bramley Arms’, a former pub. This nineteenth century pub, which closed in the 1980s, was used as a location in the films “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “Quadrophenia” (see: http://www.closedpubs.co.uk/london/w10_northkensington_bramleyarms.html). It is now used for housing. Further down the road, we reach a large red brick building bearing large notices, one inset in the brickwork and another in colourful mosaic, that inform the viewer that this was once ‘The People’s Hall’.

The Peoples Hall

The Peoples Hall

Opened in 1901,it assumed great significance in 1977 (see below). A part of it is on Olaf Street. This houses the newly opened “Frestonian Gallery”, which displays contemporary art. A friend of ours who works there invited us to its recent inauguration. This led to my interest in the People’s Hall.

The name of the new gallery commemorates an extraordinary incident comparable to that portrayed in the 1949 film “Passport to Pimlico”, in which the Pimlico area of London declared independence. This happened for real in Freston Road in 1977. By this date, the area around Freston Road had deteriorated significantly, and the Greater London Council (‘GLC’) wanted to evacuate its inhabitants to redevelop it. As a local resident, Tony Sleep put it:
“The GLC decided that it was intolerable having 120 people living in these damp old dirty houses and it would be a much better idea to knock them all down and make us homeless…” (see the fascinating and informative website: http://www.frestonia.org/).
Under the leadership of Tony Albery and other social activists, it was decided that the 120 residents (many of them squatters who had moved into almost derelict buildings that had been neglected by the GLC prior to redeveloping the area) living in the 1.8 acre plot around Freston Road should declare the area a republic independent of the UK. The republic was named ‘Frestonia’, and its inhabitants, who all added the suffix ‘-Bramley’ to their own surnames, were called ‘Frestonians’. In addition to applying (without success) for membership of the United Nations, Frestonia issued its own postage stamps, and created a stamp for marking visitors’ passports. The People’s Hall briefly became a National Film Theatre of Frestonia (see: https://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/frestonia-the-past-is-another-country/).

Frestonia attracted attention of the press both inside and outside the UK. The Republic staggered on for about five years. The actions of the Frestonians were not ignored by the GLC, who ultimately re-developed the area in such a way as not to overly disrupt the old community. The People’s Hall is the only tangible remnant of the short-lived republic.

Corner of Wilsham Street and St Anns Road

Corner of Wilsham Street and St Anns Road

The final stretch of this begins on St Anns Road, which later becomes ‘St Anns Villas’. At the corner of this road and Wilsham Street, there is a flat-roofed terrace of buildings. Formerly known as ‘St Katherine’s Road’, Wilsham Street and others parallel to it lead to the former potteries described above. This street appears on an 1860 map, made at a time when there were still brickfields a few streets north of it. Charles Booth’s late nineteenth century ‘poverty map’ (see: https://booth.lse.ac.uk/) shows that the western half of the street was “Poor. 18s. to 21s. a week for a moderate family”, whilst the eastern half, closest to the former potteries, was “Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal.” Well, all of that has changed. While I cannot vouch for the behaviour of the present inhabitants, I can safely say that they are not poor.

St James Church

St James Church

St James Gardens, one street down from Wilsham Street, contains a rectangular garden in which the neo-gothic Victorian St James Church (built 1845) stands. On Booth’s map, these streets, which neighbour a poor area, are marked as “Middle class. Well-to-do.” Here, as in so many parts of London, the rich live(d) cheek-by-jowl with the poor.

Holland Park Synagogue

Holland Park Synagogue

The Holland Park Synagogue is also on St James Gardens. This was built in 1928 (see: http://hollandparksynagogue.com/about/history/) inspired by the design of the much older Bevis Marks Synagogue. Its congregation was founded by Sephardic Jews who arrived in London from the Ottoman Empire.

Tabernacle School St Anns Villas

Tabernacle School St Anns Villas

The Tabernacle School neighbours the synagogue. The school is housed in a spectacular crenelated brick and white stone mock-Tudor building, similar to many of those that line St Anns Villas. A plaque on another similarly designed villa records that the music-hall comedian Albert Chevalier (1861-1923) lived there. Born Albert Onésime Britannicus Gwathveoyd Louis Chevalier in the prosperous St Ann Villas, son of a French teacher, this son of the bourgeoisie specialised in cockney-related humour.

St Ann Villas

St Ann Villas

The present school and the other villas were built in the 1840s above the line of an improved sewer that was built in the late 1830s. This sewer follows the course of an older sewer, The Counter’s Creek Sewer’, which in turn followed the course of one of London’s ‘Lost Rivers’, Counters Creek, which used to flow from west of Kensal Green to the Thames, which it enters as ‘Chelsea Creek’. Counter’s Creek is marked on an 1841 map as running alongside the western edge of the northern part of the Hippodrome. Further south, it ran along what is now Freston Street before following a course approximately where St Anns Road and Villas run.

The Organ Factory

The Organ Factory

St James Gardens crosses St Anns Villas to become ‘Swanscombe Road’. A small Victorian building, now converted to housing, carries the name that commemorates its former use, the ‘Organ Factory’. Queensdale Road, which runs parallel to, and south of, Swanscombe Road, is the home of a Sikh temple, the ‘Central Gurdwara (Khalsa Jatha) London’.

Gurdwara Sikh Temple

Gurdwara Sikh Temple

The Khalsa Jatha was founded in London in 1908 “…to promote religious and social activities among the Sikhs who had settled in the UK. Later in the same year it was affiliated to the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar” (see: http://www.centralgurdwara.org.uk/history.htm). Initially based in Putney, it then moved to Shepherds Bush, before reaching its present site in 1969.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

At its southern end, St Ann Villas meets one of London’s answers to the Regency crescents in Bath: Royal Crescent. Now slightly shabby in appearance, this crescent was laid out by Robert Cantwell (c. 1793-1859) in 1846. Cantwell was responsible for much of the building development on the Norland Estate, which includes the Crescent.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

Garden of Royal Crescent

Garden of Royal Crescent

Unlike the crescents in Bath, Royal Crescent is made up of two quarter circle terraces, separated by St Anns Villas. The terraces surround a beautifully laid out private gardens, which can be seen easily from various places along its cast-iron fencing. In the middle of the Holland Park Avenue boundary of the gardens, there is a stone public drinking fountain (no longer working). This was paid for by Miss Mary Cray Ratray of 41 Tavistock Square to perpetuate her memory. She died in 1875.

Drinking fountain Royal Crescent

Drinking fountain Royal Crescent

Just south of the Crescent, there is a wide, traffic-free street, almost a piazza, called ‘Norland Road’. This was developed in the 1840s, and as its name suggests it was part of the Norland Estate, its westernmost border. From its southern end, there is a fine view of the ‘Thames Water Ring Main Tower’, which was erected by Thames Water in 1994. Clad in a transparent material, this futuristic object in the middle of a busy roundabout, was designed by reForm Architects (London). Its purpose is to house a ‘surge pipe’ on London’s Thames Water Ring Main, which carries potable water from water treatment plants to the city’s inhabitants. It is here that I will conclude my tour.

Shepherds Bush water tower

Shepherds Bush water tower

By trying to track down the few barely tangible memories of Notting Hill’s short-lived Hippodrome racecourse, I have seen many sights that bear testimony to the history of a fascinating part of west London. Notting Hill has had a diverse history: from its rustic origins to more recent events, including , most recently, the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.

AVONDALE PARK GATES

AVONDALE PARK GATES

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 02:43 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london ukrainian travellers synagogue kensington jews sikhs racecourse hippodrome gypsies notting_hill horse-racing frestonia grenfell_tower Comments (2)

HAYTOR TO HAVASU: a story set in stone

LONDON BRIDGE: a moving story

Dartmoor in the mist

Dartmoor in the mist

The very first London Bridge was built by the Romans in wood sometime between 100 A.D. and 400 A.D. In 1014, two Norwegian kings burnt this down to divide their foes, the Danish in Britain. A stone bridge began to be built in 1176 after another wooden bridge had been destroyed by a gale. Soon after its construction, houses began to be built on it.

View of London Bridge (17th century) by Claude de Jongh (Source: Google_Art_Project_bridge)

View of London Bridge (17th century) by Claude de Jongh (Source: Google_Art_Project_bridge)

This structure had nineteen arches and a drawbridge. It survived, albeit with many modifications and repairs, until the early nineteenth century. However, between 1758 and 1762, the houses and other structures (including a chapel) were removed from it. In 1823, construction of a new stone bridge with five arches was started upstream of the old bridge. It was opened in 1831. In the early 1970s, this bridge was demolished, and replaced by a three-arched concrete one, which remains in use today. (For more details of the history of the bridges, see “The London Encyclopaedia”, ed. by B Weinreb & C Hibbert.)

Granite summit of  Haytor

Granite summit of Haytor

Recently, my friend T Freeman suggested that I visit the Haytor region on Dartmoor in Devon. I went there twice. Once on a day, when the rocky formation known as ‘Haytor’ (and most of Dartmoor) was completely hidden by dense swirling mists, and the second time in bright sunshine. Haytor is a granite hill surmounted by six well-weathered granite rocky outcrops that look a bit like giant chimneys. Just beneath this hill, there is a disused quarry, which provided most of the granite used to build the 19th century London Bridge.

Haytor Quarry: view

Haytor Quarry: view

Within the UK, granite, which is a hardy, durable rock, but carve-able with some difficulty, is found in its greatest concentrations in Devon and Cornwall. There are also significant deposits of it in some parts of eastern Scotland. During the nineteenth century, extraction of most building granite was:
“…centred on the Dartmoor (Haytor quarry), Bodmin (Cheesewring and De Lank quarries), St Austell (Luxullian quarry), Penryn (Carnsew & Penryn quarries) and Penzance areas.” (See: http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/rockofages/rockofages.htm).

Haytor Quarry: worked stones

Haytor Quarry: worked stones

Much of the granite from Haytor Quarry was used in nineteenth century municipal building projects. However, the quarry is located a long way from most cities, especially from London where its stone was used to construct the 1831 five-arched London Bridge. Walking up to the quarry, which is over 500 feet above sea-level, is difficult enough, but the prospect of getting heavy pieces of granite from there to London in the early nineteenth century must have seemed a daunting challenge. But, human ingenuity is legendary.

Haytor Quarry: wall

Haytor Quarry: wall

In 1765, James Templer (1722-1782) bought the Stover Estate, on which he built his Stover House using granite from the Haytor Quarry, which was on his estate. His son James Templer (1748-1813) had a son George Templer (1781-1843), who devised a method for facilitating the transportation of granite from the quarries on Dartmoor to places where it was needed such as London.

Haytor Quarry: an old winch

Haytor Quarry: an old winch

In 1792, George’s father, James ‘junior’, built a canal, the Stover Canal, from Ventiford near Stover House to Newton Abbott, which is on the River Teign that opens out to a long, broad sea-filled estuary. At first, this was used to transport the valuable, fine clay (‘ball’ or ‘white’ clay, which was in great demand at the time) that was extracted in huge amounts from the area around the Stover estate.

Haytor Quarry: an old link

Haytor Quarry: an old link

By the beginning of the nineteenth century when there was a great market for granite to be used in construction, George Templer became involved. At first, the pieces of granite had to be carried across difficult terrain:
“…by horse and cart down to Teignmouth and as before this proved costly and time consuming.”
(See the very informative: http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/haytor_quarries.htm).
George devised an ingenious solution, when he was granted a contract to supply stone to build the new (1830) London Bridge. He decided to build a tramway to transport the granite from his quarries to the Stover Canal. As iron was not available locally, he decided to make the rails out of granite. In 1820, his Haytor Granite Tramway was opened. It runs for over eight miles from the quarries, down the steep slopes of Dartmoor, to the canal terminus at Ventiford. One source (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1002528) describes this amazing tram way in some detail:
“The tramway utilised stone sets instead of iron rails and was opened in 1820 by George Templer. It survives as a series of parallel lines of rectangular granite sets with flanges and rebates cut along the upper outside edges placed end to end on a level track bed. Individual sets vary in length to allow for curves in the track. The gauge of the tramway measures 1.25m. Originally, it extended over eight and a half miles in length connecting the granite quarries to Ventiford Basin where the stone was transferred to barges. The steep gradient of some stretches of the route as well as other natural and artificial obstructions had major implications in engineering for several sections of the track bed requiring the use of cuttings and embankments. At several places points were used to divert wagons onto different branches. The tramway remained in use until about 1858.”

The granite was carried on wagons guided by men. On flattish sections, horses were used to pull the wagons. London Bridge was constructed using pieces of granite that were carved to exacting specifications in the quarries. They were numbered according to a pre-determined scheme devised by the bridge’s designer Sir J Rennie (1794-1874), and then transported to the canal by means of the tramway. Then barges on the canal carried them to Newton Abbot, where they were put on board seagoing vessels bound for London. In London, the numbered pieces of stone were assembled according to a plan to construct the bridge. The 1830 London Bridge was, in effect, pre-fabricated in the quarries around Haytor.

The granite tramway has been remarkably durable. Many traces of it may be seen today by following a walkers’ path called ‘The Templer Way’. I have not walked the length of this, but have seen some of its highlights.

Haytor Quarry and winch

Haytor Quarry and winch

Haytor Quarry, which I visited close to Haytor, but slightly to the north of its peak, is a short walk from a helpful visitors’ centre on the B3387. After passing through a wooden gate, a rough path leads down into the quarry which is surrounded by granite cliffs peppered with occasional plants: ferns, bushes, grass, and trees. The base of the quarry, a wild luxuriant ‘garden’, contains an irregularly shaped ‘pond’ on which water lilies were growing. There is little evidence that this peaceful secluded area was once a busy hive of activity. Apart from a rusting winch, a few bits of ironwork embedded in rocks, and one or two rocks with parallel grooves that were used to split them from other bits of granite, which found their way into the structure of London Bridge, it would be hard to divine the industrial nature of the history of this place.

I was curious to discover where the tramway began in the quarry, but saw nothing that could give me a clue as to its whereabouts. Later, I discovered on a map surveyed in 1885 that the tramway began at the north-east point of the quarry, headed northwards for a short distance, and then joined the main tramway that led eastwards from several other local quarries. The 1885 map, which marks the tramway as being ‘disused’, shows that there were quite a few tramways around Haytor. These converged to form the main ‘line’ that wound its way eastwards to the canal at Ventiford.

Stretch of Haytor Tramway near the quarry

Stretch of Haytor Tramway near the quarry

Tramway track: detail

Tramway track: detail

Quite near the visitors’ centre mentioned above, there is an easily accessible stretch of the tramway, where one can examine the carved granite rails while, also, getting a great view across Dartmoor and southern Devon, mists allowing.

Ventiford Basin: sidings

Ventiford Basin: sidings

Ventiford Basin: a junction

Ventiford Basin: a junction

Until 2015 (see: https://www.devonnewscentre.info/new-evidence-of-the-haytor-granite-tramroad-revealed-at-ventiford-canal-basin/), there was little visible evidence of where the tramway met the canal. In 2015, archaeological excavations at Ventiford Basin uncovered a series of tramway ‘sidings’ that ended at the edge of the old, now disused, Stover Canal. The granite tracks divided, and then re-divided to form multiple sidings, just like the steel railway tracks in a modern railway yard. Whereas steel rails can be moved to divert trains from one track to another, granite cannot be used this way. To guide wagons from one granite track to another:
“…were diverted using a metal shoe which levered the wheels over to the desired direction.”
(See: http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/41584/lab-granpost.pdf).

Ventiford Basin of the Stover Canal

Ventiford Basin of the Stover Canal

The granite was loaded onto canal barges, which travelled along the Stover Canal to Newton Abbot. On the way, they had to pass through locks. The ruins of one of these can be seen at Teigngrace.

Teigngrace lock

Teigngrace lock

A little further downstream at Teignbridge, where the Exeter Road crosses the canal, there is a lovely bridge decorated with two carved stone animal heads. This bridge is, incidentally, very close to a still functioning clay pit.

Teignbridge:  bridge detail

Teignbridge: bridge detail

From Newton Abbot, the granite bridge elements were shipped to London, and the bridge was completed. The 1830 London Bridge served London until 1967, but over the years it began sinking. In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London decided that the bridge needed to be replaced. Between 1967 and 1972, a replacement was constructed in pre-stressed concrete.

In 1967, the Council put Rennie’s 1830 bridge up for sale. It was bought for US$ 2,460,000 by Robert P McCulloch (1911-1977). It was carefully dismantled, and each piece was numbered. While this was being done, some of the original numbering, which was placed on the pieces whilst they were still in the Haytor Quarry, were discovered. The pieces were shipped to the USA. They travelled across the Atlantic, then through the Panama Canal, to the Pacific, before being landed in California. Then, they were carried by truck inland to Arizona (see: “London Bridge in America: The Tall Story of a Transatlantic Crossing” by T Elborough).

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

In January 1994, my wife and I travelled to Arizona from California. After seeing the Grand Canyon under snow – very beautiful – we travelled southwards into the warmer climes of southern Arizona. We left the Grand Canyon in arctic conditions, spent a night in Sedona, famed for its ‘energy vortices’, which some credulous individuals (including me!) claim to be able to feel. From there, we headed southwest into to even warmer weather, arriving at Lake Havasu City on the oasis-like Lake Havasu the Arizona shore of the Colorado River. A roadside sign informed us that the city was “established in 1963”. It was built on land bought by Robert P McCulloch.

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

Our reason for visiting Lake Havasu City was to see the ‘old’ London Bridge. We arrived at a hotel just in time to be served dinner. I ordered New York Strip Steaks, and when the waitress served them she asked me whether I wanted, what sounded to me like, “O Juice”. I had never been offered orange juice with beefsteak before, so I asked the waitress what it was. She replied: “It is kind of like gravy”, and it was. She had mispronounced the French ‘au jus’. Soon after we began eating, the waitress and other staff began closing-down the restaurant for the night. According to our watches, it was only 8.30 pm. After asking why the place shut so early, we learnt that it was 9.30 pm in Arizona. Our watches had been set to California time; we had crossed into another time-zone.

London Bridge at  Lake Havasu City

London Bridge at Lake Havasu City

Next morning, we walked onto ‘old’ London Bridge, the one that Rennie had built in 1830 using granite from Haytor. Lake Havasu City is built on the eastern shore of a wide part of the Colorado River, known as Lake Havasu. The lake and the city is surrounded by desolate hills. London Bridge connects the city with a large island in the lake. When we visited it in 1994, there was little on the island except a few houses built in an attempt to imitate ‘Ye Olde England’ and a retired red London Transport double-decker bus. The bus had been modified to become a refreshment stall.

Lake Havasu City

Lake Havasu City

Lake Havasu: plaque on London Bridge

Lake Havasu: plaque on London Bridge

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

London Bridge looked splendid against the blue waters of the lake and the almost cloudless sky. We walked along it from the city to its far end that stood in what looked like ‘nowhere’. The view from it across the lake to the distant hills was magnificent. Flanked by the occasional palms and other desert vegetation, the bridge looked like an extravagant folly. Yet, it was not. McCulloch knew what he was doing when he bought London Bridge. He wanted to attract settlers to his new town, and to do that he needed an attraction to draw people there. Just as a leaning tower draws people to visit Pisa, and Disney’s attractions draw them to Orlando, London bridge did the same for Lake Havasu City. His investment paid off.

Lake Havasu: London Bridge

Lake Havasu: London Bridge

Having seen the bridge in Arizona, I was most excited to see the quarry in Devon where its component parts were originally carved. I wonder what the men who manoeuvred the stones down the granite tramway would have thought had they known that the fruits of their labours would end up in a city in Arizona, surrounded, like the quarry, by huge sparsely inhabited spaces. I hope that they would have been pleased that their work resulted in the production of a fine bridge rather than a simple Dartmoor bridge like the ‘Clapper Bridge’ near Postbridge on the moor.

Postbridge (Dartmoor): Clapper Bridge

Postbridge (Dartmoor): Clapper Bridge

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:28 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london arizona bridge usa devon granite dartmoor haytor lonson_bridge Comments (3)

7 SISTERS TO SILVER STREET: following a Roman road

Discovering places of interest along a Roman road in Tottenham and Edmonton .

Tottenham: The Old well

Tottenham: The Old well

Tottenham and Edmonton are places that are lesser-known to me, and, I suspect, to many others. You may well wonder why I am writing about apart of north-east London, which is well off most visitors’ radars. Here are two reasons: the first dental, the second legal.

In the 1960s, my late uncle Julian Walt, a dentist trained in Johannesburg, owned a dental practice next to Silver Street Station in Edmonton. I used to attend his surgery every six months until the mid-1970s. The immediate surroundings of his practice seemed dismal, and not worth exploring. So, I used to get my teeth treated, and return to other parts of London as quickly as possible.

Years later, my wife, by then a practising barrister, began attending cases at Edmonton County Court, which is a short walk from Julian’s former surgery. Recently, I met her for lunch in Edmonton, and we took a bus home. This bus travelled from Fore Street, which is close to Silver Street, all the way along the Tottenham High Road to Seven Sisters Station. As we travelled, I noticed from the window of the bus that our route was dotted with buildings that looked interesting. They proved to be so, and I have looked at them more closely since then.

Tottenham:Bernie Grant Arts Centre

Tottenham:Bernie Grant Arts Centre

Let me guide you from Seven Sisters Station to Silver Street along a road that has run from Bishopsgate in the City to Hertford since time immemorial. Until it reaches Bruce Grove, it is the ‘A10’ road, and then north of this it becomes the A1010. Once, it was known as the ‘Hertford Road’ and, also, ‘The Old North Road’. Originally, it was a Roman road that became known as ‘Ermine Street’ (derived from its Old English name – ‘Earninga Straete’). It led from Londinium (London) to Eburacum (York). Being such a long-established thoroughfare, it is good to find that there are still some historic buildings that may be seen along it.

Former Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables

Former Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables

The name ‘Seven Sisters’ is derived from a circle of seven elms that used to stand near the present intersection of Broad Lane and the Tottenham High Road (the ‘High Road’). Just north of Seven Sisters Station on the west side of the High Road, there is a large ornate red brick building surrounded by iron railings. Now Sycamore Court, this was once the ‘Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables’. It was built between 1897 and 1901. The establishment that ran it was founded in Hackney in 1889 to offer:
“… care to poor Jewish immigrants permanently disabled by chronic disease, accident or physical handicap.” (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/jewishhospitalandhome.html).
It moved to the site on the High Road in 1903. It contained a synagogue that was consecrated in 1918. After WW1, the institution included incurable Jewish ex-servicemen amongst its inmates.

Sycamore Gardens: former Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables

Sycamore Gardens: former Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables

The hospital closed in 1995. By then, Tottenham’s Jewish population had shrunk considerably. Now, with the synagogue fittings having been removed and transferred to the Sukkat Shalom Reform Synagogue in Wanstead, the building has been converted to be used as social housing.

The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

The campus of The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (‘CONEL’) is near to Sycamore Court. This college is a ‘descendant’ of the Grove House School, a Quaker school, that flourished on this site between 1828 and 1878. An older (20th century) brick building with neo-classical features stands next to a more contemporary building. They are close to Tottenham Green.

Tottenham Green war memorial

Tottenham Green war memorial

A war memorial (erected in 1923) surmounted by a winged figure stands guard at the southern apex of the Green. The Green appears on maps as early as the 17th century (e.g. on a 1619 map), but most probably antedates this. The existing buildings around it do not go that far back in time.

Former Tottenham Green Fire Station

Former Tottenham Green Fire Station

On the western edge of the Green, we find the former Tottenham Fire Station, which was built in 1905 by A S Taylor and R Jemmett. Now, a protected building, it has been converted for use as a restaurant. The old fire station is next to the former Tottenham Town Hall. Designed by Arthur Rutherford Jemett and Arnold S Taylor, this elegant ‘Edwardian Baroque’ structure was built in 1905.

Old Tottenham Town Hall

Old Tottenham Town Hall

Now, it is home to the ‘Legacy Business Centre’ and the ‘Dream Centre’, which is a place for holding functions such as weddings. A plaque on the front of the building remembers the trade unionist and politician Bernie Grant (1944-2000), who held “legendary surgeries” within the Town Hall.

Former Tottenham Town Hall: Bernie Grant plaque

Former Tottenham Town Hall: Bernie Grant plaque

Born in the West Indies, and brought to the UK by his parents in 1963, Bernie became a figure of controversy following the death of PC Blakelock during riots in the Broadwater Farm Estate (in Tottenham) in October 1985. He was nicknamed “The High Priest of Conflict” by the then Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd. Bernie went on to become Labour MP for Tottenham between 1987 and 2000. When he was elected in 1987, he was one of only four ‘black’ MPs.

Bernie Grant Arts Centre

Bernie Grant Arts Centre

Grant’s memory is celebrated in a complex of buildings behind the Town Hall: The ‘Bernie Grant Arts Centre’. It is well worth walking behind the old building to see, first, that it is attached, like a thick façade or a rich cake icing, to a much newer building, which forms part of the arts centre. This is separated by a large yard from a much larger elegant contemporary building made of a black material and with a plate glass façade. This contains halls, auditoriums, studios, and other spaces, that make up the arts centre.

Bernie Grant Arts Centre: old chimney

Bernie Grant Arts Centre: old chimney

This complex was designed by the British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye (born 1966), who has also designed, for example, the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management and a new building for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver (USA). Next to the large building, there is a solitary industrial chimney, which is all that remains of a now demolished swimming pool.

Old Tottenham County School

Old Tottenham County School

What remains of the Old Town Hall (its front section) stands next to the former Tottenham County School building that opened in 1913. Created by Middlesex County Council in 1901 on another site, this was one of the first co-educational secondary schools in the country. It moved to the building on the Green in 1913, and left it in the 1960s. Currently, the former school building is used by a branch of CONEL.

Bust of Marcus Garvey

Bust of Marcus Garvey

The Marcus Garvey Centre is housed within a fairly non-descript modern building, ‘Tottenham Green Pools and Fitness’, which is next to the former school. The Marcus Garvey Library, which has recently undergone a complete ‘make-over’ is spacious, light, and well designed. The Jamaican born Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) was a ‘black leader and, oversimplifying his achievements greatly, a major proponent of the idea that people of ‘black’ African ancestry should take control of their own destinies as well as ‘redeem’ Africa from the colonial powers that had occupied it. He died in West Kensington, London, not far from where I work currently. The library contains his sculpted bust. Beneath it, there is a foundation stone, which was laid in 1987 by his son Marcus Garvey Junior. The stone has a five-pointed star carved on it like that used by the socialists. Garvey (senior) was concerned that Communism was really for the benefit of ‘white’ working people, but that ‘black’ people were welcomed by them mainly to swell their numbers in the fight against the ‘white’ upper classes.

Tottenham Green Southside

Tottenham Green Southside

There is a small portion of the Green on the east side of the High Road. On the south side of this part of the green, there is a block of early 19th century residences with attractive skylights over their front doors. A large block of flats nearby, Deaconess Court, is adorned with stone depictions of the three heraldic feathers of the Prince of Wales.

Former Prince of Wales Hospital

Former Prince of Wales Hospital

It used to be the premises of the Prince of Wales General Hospital, which used to treat the acutely ill between 1867 and 1983 (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/princeofwales.html). Its neighbour to the north is Mountford House.

Mountford House on Tottenham Green

Mountford House on Tottenham Green

This grand building is from the late 18th century, and has 19th century additions. Elegant dwellings such as these on the Green are evidence of what “A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5”, described (about the High Road):
“A notable feature from the 16th century was the number of large houses, most of them leased to Londoners as country retreats.”
When the railway (Stoke Newington & Edmonton Railway) was opened in 1872, Tottenham High Road became accessible to the working classes, and this accounted for acceleration of the urbanisation along it. The remains of the earlier patrician housing are embedded within the 19th and 20th century urban sprawl, which reduces the High Road’s attractiveness to most visitors.

HOLY TRINITY CHURCH Tottenham

HOLY TRINITY CHURCH Tottenham

At the north-east corner of the Green, there is Holy Trinity Church, which was consecrated 1830. It is neo-Gothic in style, designed by James Savage, and (supposedly) modelled on Kings College Chapel in Cambridge. Opposite this church across the High Road, there is a small plaque commemorating John Williams (1796-1839), who was born in Tottenham.

John Williams memorial plaque

John Williams memorial plaque

A shipbuilder and missionary, he was eaten in Erromanga (in the New Hebrides, now Vanuatu) by the local inhabitants.
“Swift-footed natives captured him. The missionary who had hoped to feast them with the Gospel became their feast instead.” (see: http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/john-williams-martyred-on-erromanga-11630456.html).

Tottenham Old well detail

Tottenham Old well detail

Near the church, where Philip Lane meets the High Road, stands The Old Well. Long ago, when Tottenham was a small village, all its inhabitants obtained water from this well, which was sunk in 1791. The construction of the well was financed by Thomas Smith, Lord of the Manor of Tottenham, at Bruce Castle (see below). The quaint tiled roof was added to the well in 1859. Water was drawn from the well (and transported to where it was needed by paid water-carriers) until 1883, when it was realised that the water was polluted. After that, it was never used again. Luckily, this old structure in rather a bleak part of north-east London, complete with its winding wheel and chains, has been preserved by various bodies over the years.

Tottenham High Cross

Tottenham High Cross

The well is close to a slender gothic pinnacle standing on a traffic island. Known as ‘Tottenham High Cross’ this stands at the ‘peak’ of a slight rise. The present cross was built in 1809, and later decorated in Victorian gothic. It stands in the centre of Tottenham Village on the spot where there had been a cross since the 15th century, and maybe long before. Some say that once there may have been a marker here, placed by the Romans on their ‘Ermine Street’.

Tottenham is a multi-ethnic area

Tottenham is a multi-ethnic area

Until recently, a pub, ‘The Swan’, stood near the Cross. Established in the 15th century, the author of the ‘Compleat Angler’, Izaak Walton (1593-1683), is said to have rested there after fishing in the River Lea (See: http://www.tottenhamcivicsociety.org.uk/CivitasAutumn2008.pdf). The pub closed a few years ago, and became ‘reincarnated’ as ‘Alamut’, a Turkish eatery. When I saw this place recently (May 2017), it looked as if it was no longer in business.

Embracing Forms by Vanessa Pomeroy

Embracing Forms by Vanessa Pomeroy

A small carved stone sculpture stands just north of the Cross. Called ‘Embracing Forms’, it was sculpted by Vanessa Pomeroy before 1983. She derives much pleasure from depicting the Hertfordshire countryside.

Library Court, High Cross: detail

Library Court, High Cross: detail

Across the road facing the sculpture, stands Library Court, built in 1896. This block of flats, which retains the original 19th century façade, occupies the building that used to be Tottenham’s library.

Tottenham Palace Theatre

Tottenham Palace Theatre

Our next treat on the High Road is opposite Tottenham Police Station. This is the former ‘Tottenham Palace Theatre’, built in 1908 by OC Wylson (1859-1925), who won a prize, the Donaldson Medal, while studying architecture at University College, London. Its façade has been described by the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “neo Baroque”.

Tottenham Palace Theatre Centre

Tottenham Palace Theatre Centre

One of its street doors still retains its original delicate iron-work tracery. When it opened, it was a variety theatre. Amongst others, the singer comedienne Marie Lloyd (1870-1922) performed there. In 1926, the building became a cinema, and then in 1969, a bingo hall. Currently, it houses a religious organisation, the ‘Power Praise & Deliverance Ministries International Worship Centre’. Like so many of London’s former cinemas, this one has been delivered from disuse and possible demolition by one of the numerous religious organisations that abound in London.

St Marks about 1937

St Marks about 1937

The theatre is separated from the St Marks Methodist Church by a row of three storey buildings with shops at street level. The church’s grey exterior is, frankly, hideous. Its entrance is in the middle of a row of shops erected in the late 1930s.

The Ship

The Ship

At Bruce Grove railway station, the A10 leaves the High Road and travels northwest along Bruce Grove. Just before the junction, stands the ‘Ship’ pub. This elaborately decorated 19th century building stands on the site of yet another place that Izaak Walton used to enjoy frequenting. Before continuing north along the High Road, let us take a detour along Bruce Grove.
The old station, opened in 1872, with its gothic windowed ticket hall stands across the Grove from a former cinema. It was the ‘Bruce Grove Cinema’, and it opened in 1921, when the first film screened there was “The Mark of Zorro”, starring Douglas Firbanks (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/15233). It became a bingo hall in the 1960s, and then an indoor cricket ‘pavilion’, and now it is used, amongst other things, as a church, a jewellery shop, and an eastern European supermarket.

Old cinema in Bruce Grove

Old cinema in Bruce Grove

Next door to the cinema, stands the ‘Regency’, now home of the ‘Regency Banqueting Suite’. Built in 1923, it was originally the ‘Bruce Grove Ballroom’, which was constructed by the owners of the neighbouring cinema (see: https://londonpostcodewalks.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/n17-spurred-into-action/). The banqueting suite is now used as a venue for Greek and Turkish weddings and so on.

Bruce Grove The Regency

Bruce Grove The Regency

Across the road from the Regency, there is a row of Georgian buildings were built in the late 18th or early 19th century. One of them, number 7, on the corner of Champa Close was the home of Luke Howard (1772-1864).

Bruce Grove: Luke Howard home

Bruce Grove: Luke Howard home

Howard was known as the ‘namer of clouds’. In 1802, he proposed a system for classifying different types of clouds, which we are still using today. He suggested names such as ‘cirrus’, ‘cirrostratus’, and ‘cumulus’, which remain in use. His naming system was preferred over an earlier French one proposed by the celebrated French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) because it used the then universally acceptable Latin instead of French. Howard, a Quaker, who was a manufacturing chemist and an amateur meteorologist, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1821. He died in his Tottenham home.

An old sign, which reads: ‘Tottenham Trades Hall’ is attached to number 7. After Howard died, his home was used briefly as a home for missionaries. Then, in 1919, the house:
“…was bought by Tottenham Trades Union and Labour Club and used as offices and for meetings. They constructed the Rear Hall and in 1937 the front projecting wing. They also bought No. 8 and they still occupy the ground floor of this building…”
(see: http://www.tottenhamcivicsociety.org.uk/CivitasWinter2014.pdf). Currently, number 7 remains behind builders’ fencing, and its neighbour, number 8, is used for offices and flats.

9 to 12 Bruce Grove

9 to 12 Bruce Grove

These two adjoining buildings are part of a long row of Georgian houses that extend to about halfway along Bruce Grove.

Edmansons Close

Edmansons Close

Much of the north western half of the Grove is occupied by a large collection of 19th century alms-houses, many of them arranged around a green space. A small neo-gothic chapel with a spire stands in their midst. The quaint Victorian homes are ranged along Edmanson Close, and were built by The Drapers’ Company in 1869-70: “…for the poor, elderly people of Tottenham and Bow” (see: http://www.thedrapers.co.uk/). The architect was Herbert Williams (c.1812-1872), who also designed the Drapers’ new hall in the City. They were built on the site of the former Elmslea House (which served as a school for fatherless Anglican girls from 1866). They were known as the ‘Sailmakers’ Almshouses’.

Bruce Castle

Bruce Castle

At the end of Bruce Grove, we reach the entrance to Bruce Castle Park, which faces the main entrance to Bruce Castle. The Castle is a beautiful 16th - 17th century manor house. An earlier building was built on this site before the 17th century, but in about 1670 it was completely rebuilt by Henry Hare, the 2nd Baron of Coleraine. In the 18th century, an addition was built onto its east end. The building was later modified in the 19th century, but despite these changes it remains one of the earliest surviving English brick houses.

Bruce Castle: old tower

Bruce Castle: old tower

To the west of the house, there is a round tower made with red brick and topped with crenellations. This is believed to have been built earlier than the ‘Castle’. It is clearly marked on a 1619 map of the area. Bruce Castle was built on land formerly owned by the Scottish Bruce family, the family of Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) of spider-watching fame. In the early 12th century, the manor of Tottenham came into the hands of Malcolm III of Scotland, and in 1254 part of it became owned by the De Brus (Bruce) family. When Robert the Bruce asserted his right to be King of Scotland, England’s King Edward II took ownership of the land in 1306. The name ‘Bruce’ has remained associated with this part of Tottenham ever since.

Bruce Castle: staircase

Bruce Castle: staircase

In 1827, Rowland Hill (1795-1879), and educator the ‘father’ of the modern British postal system, bought the manor house to begin a private school, there. Six years later, he handed it over to other members of his family. The school continued under the directorship of Birkbeck Hill, and then Reverend William Almack until 1891. The following year, the Castle became the property of Tottenham Urban District Council, which opened the Castle’s grounds as a public park. In 1906, the Castle became Tottenham’s first public museum. It remains a museum (of local history), as well as housing the Borough of Haringey’s archives.

Bruce Castle: a fireplace

Bruce Castle: a fireplace

When I visited the museum recently, I was told that each room is ‘themed’. While some of the themes are obvious, others are less well-defined. The museum contains a wealth of varied exhibits showing how Haringey developed and how it was affected by the events in the rest of the world, for example WW1. During my visit, I saw a temporary exhibition of Jamaican ladies’ headwear. The museum is well-worth seeing not only because of its contents but also to admire its lovely architecture.

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: the Six Million sleepers

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: the Six Million sleepers

In the grounds of Bruce Castle, there is a small fenced-off Garden of Remembrance. It is an attractively designed memorial to the victims of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi Germans and their sympathisers. The garden was created by ‘young offenders’ as part of their rehabilitation. Apart from a small plaque with gold letters carved into a piece of black stone, there is a sculpture made from six wooden railway sleepers. They stand vertically in a circle. Each one is supposed to represent one of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. And, each one has a single name carved on it. These six names are the first names of the six offenders who created this moving memorial. Behind that at the edge of the garden furthest away from the Castle, there is another sculpture (by Paul Margetts and Claudia Holder) representing prison bars and barbed wire.

Part of the garden was redesigned to commemorate the life of Roman Halter (1927-2012), a Jewish Holocaust survivor who was born in Lodz, Poland. After the Second World War, Roman came to England where he became an architect, and then later a painter and sculptor. He lived in the Borough of Haringey, where this peaceful yet moving memorial garden is located.

Bruce Grove railway bridge

Bruce Grove railway bridge

We re-enter the High Road from Bruce Grove by passing under a railway bridge on which the words ‘Bruce Grove’ are painted in large letters. Across the road, number 510 is surmounted by a triangular pediment with the date 1907. This is part of a newer building currently shared by Superdrug and McDonalds.

502 to 504 Tottenham High Road

502 to 504 Tottenham High Road

Above these shops there is an art-deco white structure with two rows of large windows. In former times, this building must have housed one large shop. According to one source (see: http://edithsstreets.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/moselle-river-tottenham.html):
“MacDonald’s in the former Tottenham Snooker Hall. This is a three storey 1930s ‘Art Deco’ style building in cream painted stucco … It was built as a Burtons the Tailors store which included a snooker hall.”

Alley opposite Bruce Grove Station

Alley opposite Bruce Grove Station

A small alleyway just north of number 510 leads to a disused building with a boarded-up Chinese-style shopfront. An indistinct sign above the door included the word ‘kitchen’.

Near Bruce Grove

Near Bruce Grove

Just north of Bruce Grove, there is a row of shops on the western side of the High Road with distinctive first floor windows beneath a curving canopy. The windows that include some coloured glass panes are separated from each other by slender pilasters with attractive complexly patterned capitals. This is a late 19th century development that followed the construction of the railway, during which existing buildings had to be cleared away to make space for it.

Near Bruce Grove

Near Bruce Grove

An alleyway that begins opposite Reform Row leads into Morrisons Yard. This leads to a small single-storey neo-classical building (number 551b). This late 19th century building was once the brewhouse (or, maybe, the gate-house and electric sub-station) of the former Tottenham Brewery, one of several breweries in the area. A detailed 1911 map shows that this building was at the entrance to the former brewery, attached to a barrier. It now houses the Citizens Advice Bureau.

551b Tottenham High Road

551b Tottenham High Road

Further evidence of earlier settlement of the High Road, especially by wealthy folk, can be found in the form of two 18th century buildings: Charlton House and its neighbour Lancaster House. Now a doctor’s surgery, Charlton House was built in about 1750 for a prosperous family. It larger neighbour, the beautifully restored Lancaster House was built in 1720.

Charlton House

Charlton House

Lancaster House 1720

Lancaster House 1720

Further north along the High Road, where Scotland Row merges with it, there is a pub with curved gables called ‘The Pride of Tottenham’. This drinking place was once the ‘Blue School’ for girls (who wore blue uniforms).

former Blue School

former Blue School

Founded in 1735, this was Tottenham’s earliest charity school. The present building was built in 1833, and then enlarged in 1876. A new block of flats has built immediately behind the pub/school in a totally different architectural style.

Prince of Wales pub, closed 2005

Prince of Wales pub, closed 2005

The ground floor facade of the pub’s immediate neighbour, number 612, is decorated with colourful tilework including a depiction of a fleur-de-lys in gold. Currently an estate agent’s shop, this was formerly ‘The Prince of Wales’ pub, which was badly damaged by fire some years ago.

River Heights

River Heights

Continuing northwards, we reach the intersection of Landsdowne Road and the High Road. On this corner, there is a well-restored building with what looks like an 18th century clock tower. However, the building bears the date ‘1930’ under the letters ‘LCS’. Its ground floor is currently occupied by a branch of the Sports Direct retail chain. This building that once housed a branch of the London Cooperative Society shops, and then later a branch of ‘Allied Carpets’, is called ‘River Heights’. This building was restored after having been almost destroyed by fire during the Tottenham riots that occurred in August 2011. Twenty-six families were living in the building at the time it was torched. Luckily, all of them escaped from the fiery inferno. The riots were sparked off following the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, a police suspect, a few days earlier. Sadly, Tottenham is no stranger to riots following police action. In 1985, there were riots in the Broadwater Farm Estate following the deaths of two people that many associated with police action.

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY - detail

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY - detail

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY - detail

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY - detail

Almost directly across the High Road from River Heights, stands a long, highly ornate, red brick building. It has towers at each end of its gabled façade, and lovely wooden doors with elaborately carved panels. Part of it was being used as what seemed to me to be a ‘community café’, and the rest of it as some kind of social centre. I entered, and asked the receptionist what the building had been originally. She was not sure, but thought that it had been associated with a gas company. She was right. It was built in stages leading up to its completion in 1914 for the Tottenham Gas, Light, and Coke Company (founded in 1847, and nationalised in 1949). This building on the High Road housed showrooms, offices, and coal supply ordering facilities. In the 1970s, the building was taken over by Haringey Council for use as its offices. The building is an attractive contrast to River Heights.

668 Tott High Rd

668 Tott High Rd

Former  Brewery

Former Brewery

On both sides of the High Road going further north from Landsdowne Road, there are well-preserved Georgian buildings, some of them with shops on their ground floors. The old Bell Brewery gatehouse is an attractive single-storey neo-classical edifice. The more recent clock, which bears the name ‘Whitbread’, does not improve its appearance.

By the time that I had reached the old brewery gatehouse, I was in need of a coffee. Then, I noticed ‘La Barca’, and, in particular, I noticed that the sign above the café included the Albanian word ‘dashuria’, which means ‘love’. I entered a large seating area which looked like many small town (or village) cafés that I had visited in Albania last year. All the other customers were men, many of them wearing black leather jackets. No one seemed to be serving, so I walked up to the bar, and there I noticed a shield bearing Albania's double-headed eagle. Eventually, I managed to attract the attention of a young woman in the kitchen. I asked her if she was Albanian. She said she was from northern Albania.

EDMON 36a La Barca

EDMON 36a La Barca

I drank my competently made coffee next to a table where a couple of men were discussing matters in Turkish. When I had finished, I went upstairs to the gallery that overlooks the restaurant. This was fitted out with ‘divan’ like seating, and there were kilim rugs attached to the walls. Amongst these there was a picture of ‘Nene Tereza’ (Mother Teresa) and another of the town of Krujë, where the Albanian hero Skanderbeg had his headquarters while he resisted the invading Ottoman Turks in the 15th century.

La Barca

La Barca

According to an article (in Albanian - see: https://www.shqiperia.com/Raki-Skrapari--balle-kazani-tek-La-Barca.3225/), La Barca used to be a failing Greek restaurant until its present Albanian owner, Mr. Erjan Cela, took it over and improved it. The menus on the table give no inkling of what this place is capable of producing. They contain the usual ‘café’fare, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the article in Albanian reveals (picturesquely translated by Google):
“...The “La Barca” specialty seems to be the taverns, as in the newly designed menu are some of them, ranging from traditional yogurt and lamb mushrooms to vegetable tiles, for example. With eggplants, stuffed peppers, and so on. A special place in the Albanian menu are stuffed pies such as spinach, pickles and curds, which are available at any time and are prepared daily by the chef Maria. However, the special feature of ‘La Barca’ is undoubtedly Skrapar’s 100% rakia, made entirely in artisanal conditions by Erjan's father, who still resides in Skrapar. The taste and aroma of this brandy fully justify its fame. Erjani tells me he has already established a regular Rakia transport system from Albania that brings a contingent of at least 20 liters per month. La Barka already has a very good reputation and reputation in the Albanian community of this northern London neighbourhood...”
On a second visit to the place, I met Mr Cela, a highly-educated Albanian, and we discussed many aspects of Albania today and yesteryear. Also, we enjoyed superb raki along with excellent coffee.

Tottenham Baptist Church

Tottenham Baptist Church

Refreshed, I continued northwards, and soon reached the Tottenham Baptist Church, which stands next to a terrace of two perfectly restored Georgian houses. Built in 1825 by Joseph Fletcher (of Bruce Grove), it could easily be mistaken for a Wesleyan chapel of that period. What caught my attention inside it was that, like the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road and St James Church in Clerkenwell, it contains a horseshoe shaped gallery that surrounds three sides of the church. The high altar is, unusually, at the western end of the church. The church used to be able to accommodate up to 900 people. In 1907, it became the first public building in Tottenham to be lit by electricity (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/).

Tottenham Hotspurs stadium

Tottenham Hotspurs stadium

Just north of the Chapel, we reach what Tottenham is known for throughout the world: football. The huge Tottenham Hotspurs Football Stadium at White Hart Lane is currently shrouded in scaffolding and surrounded by tall construction cranes. I am no football fan, but this landmark cannot be ignored. The ‘Spurs’ football club was founded in 1882. It played in various locations in Tottenham before establishing the first White Hart Lane Stadium on the site of a Charringtons Brewery in 1905, and there it remains.

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

The Coombes Croft Library is across the road from the stadium. It has a lively tiled modern entrance. Next to this, there is a metal wall sculpture depicting various aspects of the history of the area, arranged as if on a ladder. A Roman helmet stands on the first step of the ladder, a fish caught on a line on the second, a vintage car on the third, aeroplanes and modern chairs on the fourth, and an engine on the fifth.

Kebab shop neat White Hart Lane Stadium

Kebab shop neat White Hart Lane Stadium

A wall decorated with painted flowers separates the library from its neighbours, one of which is Köyüm, an eatery offering: “match days special kebab and burger”. This sign summarises some aspects of Tottenham: a working-class area with a multi-ethnic population.

Dial House 1691

Dial House 1691

Continuing north, we reach a large three storey brick house with high chimney stacks at each end of its roof. The southern one bears a sundial, which bears the date 1692 (or ’91). The house was built that year by Moses Trulock, a soap maker. It remained in his family’s possession until the 1830s (see: http://www.singernet.info/tottenham/historictott.asp - a most useful source of information), and is now used as student accommodation. It stands at the end of a row of terraced early 18th century houses, known as ‘Northumberland Row’.

Northumberland Row:  798 Tottenham High Rd

Northumberland Row: 798 Tottenham High Rd

Northumberland Row

Northumberland Row

One of the buildings has an elegant wrought iron gateway held up by two stone pillars, each surmounted by a stone sphere. These buildings, which were built on land formerly occupied by mediaeval mansions, have the same elegance as many similarly aged buildings found closer to the centre of London, for example in Islington. Sadly, Northumberland Row faces a line of non-descript 19th and 20th buildings.

Coach and Horses

Coach and Horses

The Coach and Horses pub at the corner of the High Road and Brantwood Road harks back to the past. It was serving customers in the 1850s, if not before. The building is Victorian. Opposite the pub, there are three 18th century houses joined as a terrace. Two of them retain features of their original front door fittings. Along with the pub, they mark the northern end of old Tottenham. North of this hostelry, the High Road changes its name and becomes Fore Street. The Borough of Haringey ends, and Upper Edmonton in the Borough of Enfield begins. A little further north, an arch spans the main road. It announces: “Welcome to Angel Edmonton Shopping Centre”.

Welcome to Angel Edmonton

Welcome to Angel Edmonton

The shopping centre offers a wide range of goods, and is used by the local multi-ethnic community. Of late, we have been buying goods at the enormous, well-stocked Turkish supermarket called ‘Silver Point’. It is located near to a branch of a Turkish bank in a large modern (21st century) brick building also named ‘Silver Point’.

Silverpoint food store

Silverpoint food store

The supermarket has a wide range of Turkish and Balkan foodstuffs, packaged and fresh, including several types of excellent olives, as well as freshly-baked ring-shaped simit and, also, börek with various fillings.

Former Phoenix pub

Former Phoenix pub

A little south of Silver Point at the corner of Claremont Street, there is a building (built about 1900) that was once a pub. The bas-relief Phoenixes arising from the flames give away the identity of this former pub. The ‘Phoenix’ pub was in existence in 1871, but now it is known as ‘LT’, and is classed as a ‘bar’. Not far from this, is a pub called ‘The Gilpin’s Bell’. This is housed in a building that was a motor-cycle showroom in about 1997 (see: https://whatpub.com/pubs/ENF/7383/gilpins-bell-upper-edmonton). Although the pub has relatively little history, its name commemorates someone with a much longer history.

Gilpin memorial

Gilpin memorial

John Gilpin, a London merchant, was the subject of a comic poem written in 1782 by William Cowper (1731-1800), which was based on a true story. He decided to take his wife, his sister-in-law, and their children on a holiday at ‘The Bell’ in Edmonton. The large party filled their ‘chaise’ (carriage). So, Gilpin had to ride separately on a horse. Let Cowper tell (see: http://www.bartleby.com/41/324.html) what happened when they arrived at Edmonton:

“‘Stop, stop, John Gilpin!—Here’s the house!’
They all at once did cry;
‘The dinner waits, and we are tired;’—
Said Gilpin—‘So am I!’

But yet his horse was not a whit
Inclined to tarry there!
For why?—his owner had a house
Full ten miles off at Ware.

So like an arrow swift he flew,
Shot by an archer strong;
So did he fly—which brings me to
The middle of my song.”

Unfortunately, when they arrived at ‘The Bell’ in Edmonton, his horse sped off uncontrollably taking him ten miles further to the town of Ware, leaving his wife and children behind. After more adventures, Gilpin was reunited with his family. Just north of Silver Point, and across the main road there is a stone memorial in the shape of a bell. It is covered with bas-relief carvings depicting scenes from Cowper’s poem. It also has words from this carved on it. This was created in Watts cliff stone (a kind of sandstone) by the sculptress Angela Godfrey in 1996.

The White Horse

The White Horse

South of the monument is a pub, the ‘White Horse’, built between the World wars, that sports two carved heraldic figures beside one of its chimney stacks.

Former St James Church

Former St James Church

The pub is close to what was once a church, the church of St James, a Victorian edifice built in about 1850 by Edward Ellis (of Angel Place). The large stone vicarage next to it was built in 1868. Now, both church and vicarage have been converted into flats.

Former Burtons shop

Former Burtons shop

Between Gilpin’s monument and the North Circular Road, there is a grandiose building in poor condition that used to be a branch of Burton’s retail clothing chain. The North Circular Road enters a tunnel (opened 1997) beneath Fore Street, and then emerges some way the west of it.

Angel Place

Angel Place

We will not stray far across the North Circular, but it is worth crossing to reach Angel Close. This contains a terrace of mid-18th century houses that face a small patch of greenery. The ‘Angel’ pub used to stand close to these buildings, immediately to the south of them where now the traffic thunders past on roads connecting with the highway. This pub no longer exists, but was for many years a focus of local life. A fair used to be held near it. It was demolished, probably in the late 1960s. Some lettering in brick on the north wall of what was once a bank but is now ‘Chaudhry’s Buffet/Restaurant’ (diagonally across the North Circular from Angel Close) spells out the words “The Angel Edmonton”.

198 Fore Street

198 Fore Street

Angel Close is near to a fast running stream confined between concrete banks, Pymmes Brook. Named after a local landlord William Pymme, this waterway, which rises in Hadley wood, is a tributary of the River Lea. Close to this, there is a public park – Pymmes Park, which I have not yet visited. This was part of the grounds of a property once owned by Queen Elizabeth the First’s statesman William Cecil (1520-1598), Lord Burghley. The house that used to stand there (first built in the 16th century, and rebuilt in the 18th) burnt down in 1940.

Pymmes Brook

Pymmes Brook

Silver Street Station, very near Angel Close, was opened in 1872. Unexceptional in appearance, its entrance is across Silver Street from the non-descript house where my late uncle Julian used to practise dentistry.

Julian Walt's surgery

Julian Walt's surgery

The first dentist who treated me in my childhood was a kindly, gentle German Jewish refugee called Dr Samuels. His practice was opposite St Johns Wood Underground Station in the ground floor of Wellington Court. His waiting room had Persian carpets on the floor and a good supply of “Country Life” magazines to read. Even as a child, I could see that the equipment and glass cabinets in his surgery were old enough to be of interest to a museum. Dr Samuels had to flee from Nazi Germany. Like all other Jews in his position, he was unable to take anything of even the slightest monetary value with him. His canny wife, whom I never met, prepared sandwiches for his journey. Instead of filling them with lettuce or tomatoes, she filled them with sheets of gold leaf – a material much used in dentistry before WW2. Had it been necessary, Dr Samuels could have eaten them quite safely should they have come under the scrutiny of German officials. These sandwiches provided him with some money so that he could start his new practice in the UK. When I was treated by him, he was already in his seventies. He told my parents that when no one wished to be treated by him, he would retire.

North Circular underpass opening at Angel Edmonton

North Circular underpass opening at Angel Edmonton

In the late 1960s, my late uncle Julian Walt opened his dental practice on Silver Street in Edmonton. Like Dr Samuels, he was also exceedingly gentle, but, my parents believed, probably more up to date than Samuels. We began attending Uncle Julian’s practice instead of Dr Samuels’. Julian was a hard worker, usually treating three patients in three chairs simultaneously. After I qualified as a dentist in 1982, I stopped visiting Julian, and had no more to do with Silver Street except when I drove past it on the North Circular Road. It is only recently that I have discovered that the environs of my uncle’s admittedly bleak looking surgery building are not as forbidding as I had always imagined them.

My exploration of a stretch of the course of Ermine Street, the former Roman Road, has revealed that evidence of its past as an important trunk road remains to be seen today. I hope that this long essay has added to your interest in parts of London that hardly ever make it onto visitors’ itineraries.

Angel Place

Angel Place

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 08:46 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london edmonton enfield tottenham haringey Comments (5)

A GARDEN OF DELIGHTS

A surprising oasis in busy Dalston

Dalston Curve Gardens entrance

Dalston Curve Gardens entrance


Here is a real surprise embedded in a busy urban area. Close to both Dalston Junction and Dalston Kingsland Overground stations, the hectic Kingsland Road/Dalston Lane traffic intersection, and Ridley Road Market, this (almost) hidden garden is a delight.

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

The garden was created in 2010 on wasteland that had once been the: "Eastern Curve railway line which once linked Dalston Junction Station to the goods yard and the North London Line" (see: http://dalstongarden.org/about-2/).

Dalston Curve Garden - view of refreshment area

Dalston Curve Garden - view of refreshment area

You enter the garden from a small square, which is dominated by a huge attractive mural, 'The Dalston Lane Mural', which was created by Ray Walker in 1983. As soon as you enter the garden, you find yourself in a wood covered enclosure that is open to the garden and the elements. Under the canopy, there is a bar/café, that serves hot and cold beverages as well as alcohol. In summer, a wood fired pizza oven is in action producing pizzas on some evenings.

Dalston Curve Garden - pizza oven

Dalston Curve Garden - pizza oven

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

====The garden is overflowing with plants (tended by local volunteers), an assortment of seats, and quirky folksy artwork. On one visit, I spotted a group of wild rabbits gambolling amongst the vegetation. ====

At the far end of the garden there is a children's play area and also a view of a fantastic mural on a nearby building.

Dalston Curve Garden- children'splay  area

Dalston Curve Garden- children'splay area

Dalston Curve Garden - mural on a nearby building

Dalston Curve Garden - mural on a nearby building

This garden of delights is well worth a visit. Order a pint of beer, and relax!

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:41 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london garden dalston hackney Comments (3)

THE EVERYMAN

A long-established cinema in Hampstead

Louis Patisserie is one of the older of my memories of Hampstead, but it is not nearly as old as the nearby Everyman Cinema, just off Heath Street in Holly Vale. Its building was constructed in 1883 as a military drill hall. In 1919, it was modified to become a theatre, and then in 1933 it opened as a cinema, which is still in business today.

Everyman cinema

Everyman cinema

It was in the Everyman that I watched a film (‘movie’) for the first time in my life. It was one of the only, if not the only, film I ever watched with my parents, who were not keen cinema-goers. Typically, my first film was not a popular children’s film like “Tweety and the Beanstalk” or “Bugs Bunny” or a Walt Disney cartoon. It was the French film “Le ballon rouge”, now an ‘art film classic’, which first appeared in 1956. I must have watched it a year or two later. My parents, who dissuaded me from reading popular culture, such as books written by Enid Blyton, were anxious to expose me to what they believed to be the more sophisticated aspects of literature, theatre, and, in this case, film.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, the Everyman tended to screen so-called ‘art films’, rather than the more popular ones that went out on general release. As I grew up, that kind of film suited me. So, I visited the Everyman frequently. Its interior used to be somewhat spartan. What lingers in my memory is that the auditorium always had a curious smell, that of leaking gas.

Once a year, the cinema put on a season of Marx Brothers films. I saw most of them, but never wanted to see the same one twice because, in my youth, I was able to remember well what happened in each film. The season took place in the summer months. Often, I walked across Hampstead Heath to watch a matinee screening. If the weather was good, I would often be the only person in the auditorium apart from the usher or usherette.

Today, the Everyman is still in business, but shows more ‘run-of-the-mill’ films, which attract larger audiences than the obscure kind of films that used to be the ‘speciality’ of the cinema. It is part of a chain of cinemas called Everyman Cinemas.

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 11:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london theatre movies film cinema hampstead everyman Comments (3)

(Entries 21 - 25 of 42) Previous « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 9 » Next