A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about market

IN GOLDFINGER’S SHADOW: North Kensington

The north end of Portobello Road crosses Golborne Road, the heart of a vibrant multi-ethnic community in London's North Kensington.

Golborne Rd

Golborne Rd

Between 1994 and 2001, I practised dentistry in a surgery on Golborne Road in North Kensington. The street crosses the better-known Portobello Road a couple of blocks north of the elevated Westway. Despite no longer working there, I make regular visits to this lively part of North Kensington, which is home to people originating from many parts of the world. Although much remains from when I began practising on Golborne Road, changes keep on occurring.

A detailed map surveyed in 1865 shows that where Golborne Road is today, was then open countryside through which ran ‘Portobello Lane’ (now Portobello Road). Thirty years later, what had been a narrow footpath running through fields from Notting Hill to Kensal New Town (laid out north of the Harrow Road in the 1840s and the railway tracks) was shown on a later edition of the map as Golborne Road, solidly lined with buildings. In 1870, Golborne Road, named after Dean Golbourne (vicar of St. John's Church in Paddington), was widened and lined with shops and houses. By the start of the 20th century, the area around Golborne Road had become an overcrowded slum (see: http://www.golbornelife.co.uk/golbornehistory.html). From the beginning of its urban development onwards, the cheap accommodation in the area attracted waves of immigrants, many of whose descendants still live there. The first group to arrive were Irish folk. Others will be described below. In the 1960s and ‘70s, there was extensive slum clearance, the Westway was built, as were apartment blocks such as Trellick Tower, which dominates the horizon. Abutting the wealthier parts of Kensington, North Kensington, which includes Golborne Road, has remained a less prosperous part of London, but this is beginning to change slowly.

Ladbroke Grove

Ladbroke Grove

This exploration begins in Ladbroke Grove just north of its Underground Station. Beginning on a morbid note, there is a branch of John Nodes Funeral Service close by. This company has been serving the area since 1828. In 1920, when the body of the Unknown Soldier was brought back from France: “…H Kirtley Nodes of John Nodes in Ladbroke Grove and together with … the Revd John Sowerbutts, they accompanied the coffin to and from France.” (see: http://lafd.org.uk/funeral-service-in-london-a-short-history). Recently, I was passing by when I saw a horse-drawn hearse loaded with a coffin waiting to depart from the premises. The two horses were decked with black ostrich feathers, and the driver, dressed in Victorian garb with a top hat, sat above them in front of the glass-sided vehicle.

Chesterton Rd looking northeast

Chesterton Rd looking northeast

The short Chesterton Road, lined with Victorian terraced housing, links Ladbroke Grove with the western end of Golborne Road. It is dwarfed by the massive Trellick Tower beyond it. The best days to visit Golborne Road are Fridays and Saturdays, when its street market is working. Many of the market stalls on the south side (or right side as you approach from Ladbroke Grove) are dedicated to selling used or ‘pre-loved’ goods, a term which sounds politer than ‘junk’. The vendors demand ridiculously high prices for their often almost worthless wares, but are willing to haggle sometimes. Books are sometimes on offer; these are rarely costly. When I worked in Golborne Road, there used to be a bookstall outside the surgery. Only once during my seven years working there did I ever acquire a valuable book at a bargain price. Whatever the value of the goods, they include an amazing assortment of items – everything from rusty tools and furniture (‘on its last legs’) to colourful disused shop signs.

Golborne Rd flea market

Golborne Rd flea market

The 'gentrification' of Golborne Rd

The 'gentrification' of Golborne Rd

I will describe the south side first. East of Portobello Road, there is a Danish restaurant, Snaps and Rye, next door to an Austrian one, Kipferl. These have opened in the last few years, and appeal to visitors rather than locals, who would regard them, as I do, as being overpriced. They are part of the ‘gentrification’ of the area, which had already begun with the establishment of Warris Vianni, an upmarket textile company, which opened in 1994 a few months before I began working in the area (see: http://warrisvianni.com/about-us/). Nearby, at number 91, presently the home of the smart-looking Zayane Modern Moroccan, there used to be a modest Arabic eatery with good food (Moroccan and Lebanese), where I often lunched. This used to be patronised mostly by North African men, some of them wearing traditional Berber costumes. I remember that whenever I brought my wife to eat with me there, all the men would turn to stare at us, not always approvingly. Many of these men have Moroccan heritage, Golborne Road and its environs having a large population of Moroccans.

L'Etoile Golborne Rd

L'Etoile Golborne Rd

Golborne Fisheries

Golborne Fisheries

The Etoile de Sous has changed little since I worked nearby. This north African café/bakery offers a selection of Middle-Eastern confectionery, including beautiful freshly-made baklava. It stands on the corner of Swinbrook Road opposite the Golborne Fisheries. This fishmonger contains a bewildering variety of fish and seafood that rivals many the stock in many good aquaria, except that all the creatures lie motionless on beds of crushed ice. The range of seafood on offer reflects the diversity of its customers, many of them locals. Many of the folk who have settled around Golborne Road are keen seafood eaters, for example: Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian, Afro-Caribbean, Moroccan, and Tunisian. A seagull often lurks close to this shop.

Golborne Fisheries

Golborne Fisheries

Les Couilles du Chien

Les Couilles du Chien

Les Couilles de Chien (the dog’s balls), a little further along the south side, has been in existence for more than 25 years. Its friendly owner Jerome and his staff sell a wide selection of “… unusual and decorative antiques and natural history curiosities…” (see: https://www.lescouillesduchien.com/). Facing this corner shop across Wornington Road, there is another corner store, Rainbow News. Until recently, this newsagent was a well-stocked, shabby-looking establishment. It used to be run by two Gujarati brothers from East Africa. After one of them learned that I often visit Bangalore, he would always ask me whether I ever visited Puttaparthi in Andra Pradesh, where until recently Shri Sathya Sai Baba (died 2011) ran his ashram. For the record, I have not yet visited the place. In about 2014, the Gujaratis sold their shop. Its new owners have spruced it up impressively.

Rainbow News

Rainbow News

The newsagent was separated from ‘my’ dental practice at number 59 by a Moroccan community advice centre (no longer there). When I joined the practice in 1994, I had no idea what an exciting professional life I would lead there. Back then, drug-dealers and their customers loitered outside the building despite it being under scrutiny by closed-circuit TV police cameras. Many of my patients, especially the drug-abusers, had a better knowledge of pharmacology than my colleagues and me. The richly varied backgrounds of my patients reflected that of the local population. Generalising a bit, almost the only patients who turned up punctually were the Portuguese. Just about everyone else, despite having made appointments, turned up whenever they felt like it, either on the appointed day, or on another, or not at all. One day to my great surprise, a Tunisian turned up on time. When I praised him for this, and vented about the unreliability of most of my other patients, he turned to me, and explained: “You must understand people around here believe in what the French call ‘rendez-vous africain’”. After learning this, I began feeling as relaxed about my patients’ attitudes to punctuality as they did.

Many of my patients at Golborne Road required careful handling. Some of them were schizophrenics, who had been encouraged to mingle in the community. Others were excitable, unused to not getting their own way. There were people who had endured spells in prison on several occasions. On one occasion, a couple of young men burst into my surgery. One of them demanded that I extract a certain tooth because he was in agony. I examined him, and realised that he had a broken jaw, and that extraction, apart from being dangerous, would not relieve his pain. I suggested that he headed for a hospital, but he was aggressively unwilling. In the end, his friend persuaded him to leave. I met the friend some days later, and asked how the chap with the broken jaw was getting on. He replied: “He’s on holiday,” and then paused before adding: “… a very long holiday. He won’t be back for a few years”.

Dental Surgery, 59 Golborne Rd, where Adam yamey worked

Dental Surgery, 59 Golborne Rd, where Adam yamey worked

Another man started visiting me for a course of appointments during which he was going to have a set of complete dentures constructed. He had an intimidating appearance, and told me that he needed permission from the police to visit Golborne Road, as he was barred from staying there. At the penultimate appointment, I told him that he would need to attend the following Friday. He replied that it might be difficult because he was “seeing the judge” on Monday. I asked him if he would let me know if he could not make it. He said that he would be able to ring from jail. He burst out laughing when I said to him: “You can ring from prison? Is that what they mean by a ‘cell phone’?” And, talking of mobile ‘phones, once a young fellow, a patient I saw often, came rushing into my surgery looking ‘frazzled’. I asked him what had happened. He told me that his ‘phone had just been stolen. I expressed my sympathy, and then he said: “I know who’s done it, and I’m going to get the boys in south London to put him six feet under.” You could not ‘mess’ with most of my patients!

There is no doubt that in the 1990s, Golborne Road was a rough area. One of my patients, a tall fellow with a deformed nose, told me that if ever I was in trouble locally I was to say: “I am a friend of Mick’s”. Another helpful patient was standing next to me in a queue, when he turned around and said: “If you ever need a motor, just tell me what make you want, and I’ll get one for you.” Many of my patients had challenging dental as well as social problems, but once I got know them many of them were very nice to me, and greeted me as a friend in the street, and, even today more than sixteen years after I left, some of them still stop and greet me cheerfully.

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

The practice, which still exists but is now under new management, is next door to the Lisboa Patisserie, which is a little bit of Portugal in London. When my ‘boss’ at the next-door surgery was interviewing me, he bought me an espresso coffee from Lisboa. I believe that it was the high quality of the coffee that helped me decide that I wanted to work in his surgery. Apart from excellent coffee, this popular café, where there are frequently queues, offers a great selection of Portuguese snacks, both savoury and sweet. It is famed for its ‘natas’ or baked custard tarts, but everything else is worth sampling. One wall of the café is decorated with a beautiful blue and white tiled (‘azulejo’) panorama of Lisbon depicting times long past. Next door to the café there is a Portuguese gift/stationery/book shop, the Lisboa Papeleria.

Lisboa Papelaria

Lisboa Papelaria

Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre Acklam Rd

Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre Acklam Rd

Just before reaching the railway bridge, St Ervans Road leads to Acklam Road on which the Al Manaar, Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, housed in a purpose-built brick building, is located close to the tracks. It is an Islamic community centre.

Golborne Rd railway bridge

Golborne Rd railway bridge

Golborne Rd railway bridge steps

Golborne Rd railway bridge steps

Golborne Rd railway bridge steps

Golborne Rd railway bridge steps

The iron railway bridge carrying Golborne Road over the Great Western Railway was built in about 1870 (see: http://www.golbornelife.co.uk/golbornebridge.pdf). At its north-eastern corner, there is a set of several curved steps edged with coloured tiles and paving stones, on which various historic events related to the area are recorded with inlaid letters. These dates include, for example: 1870, when Golborne Road was widened from a track; and 1948 when the ‘Empire Windrush’ set sail for the UK from Australia via Jamaica, beginning a period of immigration from the Caribbean. The walls of the bridge abutment next to these steps are decorated with strips of coloured ceramic tiles with names and dates scored in them.

Former Earl of Warwick pub

Former Earl of Warwick pub

On the corner of Golborne Road and Southam Street, there stands the former ‘Earl of Warwick’ pub, undistinguished architecturally. A plaque above its corner entrance records the death of Kelso Cochrane (1927-59). Kelso, a carpenter from Antigua, was fatally wounded near this pub in what was most probably a racially-motivated attack. When this happened, the area was a stronghold for Oswald Mosely’s Union Movement and other racist groups (see: http://www.obv.org.uk/news-blogs/death-kelso-cochrane). The pub is almost directly beneath Trellick Tower.

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Designed by the left-wing Hungarian-born architect Ernő Goldfinger, and erected by the London County Council in 1972, Trellick Tower is a brutalist-style apartment block (217 flats and maisonettes, mostly state-owned, but some privately owned) that people either love or hate. I love it, but the creator of James Bond (Agent 007) Ian Fleming (1908-64) did not like Ernő’s architecture (especially the home he constructed for himself in Hampstead). Fleming’s evil character ‘Goldfinger’ was so-named because of his creator’s animosity towards the architect of Trellick Tower (see: Guardian online, 3 June 2005).

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Holmfield House

Holmfield House

A separate slender tower connected to the main block by short covered walkways houses the lifts and staircases. Nikolaus Pevsner, the architectural historian, approved of the building. He wrote of it in 1991: “…by the 1970s public housing on such a monumental scale was already a dinosaur from another age, however handsome and generously planned (the entrance halls are marble lined, the balconies are large)…”. At street level the block has several shops, two of which include the name Goldfinger in their trading names. The ground floor of a neighbouring block, Holmfield House, contains a shop named ‘Rellik’, which opened in 1999 and continues to sell ‘vintage’-style clothing.

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Crossing over the bridge back to the stretch of Golborne Road to its west, we will next explore the northern side of the road. The Lisboa Delicatessen is opposite the Lisboa Patisserie. All the staff at the ‘deli’ and most of its customers are Portuguese speakers, either from Portugal or from its scattered former colonies. At least one of the serving staff hails from Angola. His parents moved there from Goa, when it was a Portuguese colony. The shop contains every ingredient that might ever be needed to prepare Portuguese dishes. You can buy salted-cod; prepared meats including hams (e.g. Portuguese ‘presunto, which rivals the Italian ‘prosciutto’ and Spanish ‘jamon serrano’) and salamis; wines and other drinks; fresh breads; confectionery; olives and olive oil; Portuguese cheeses; frozen goods from Portugal; and so on. We often buy ‘presunto’ here; it is freshly cut to whatever thickness is required and far cheaper and tastier than that which is available sealed in plastic in supermarkets.

Former Hicks greengrocers

Former Hicks greengrocers

Oporto cafe

Oporto cafe

Next door to the delicatessen, there is an abandoned shuttered shop bearing the name ‘W Hicks’ in fading gold lettering. When I worked at the surgery across the road, this was an old-fashioned greengrocer with friendly staff. After it closed some years ago, it premises began to be used to house stock for the delicatessen next door. The Oporto on the corner of Wornington Road is another Portuguese café. I went there a few times in the 1990s, but did not find it as congenial as the Lisboa across the road.

Vegetables and junk Golborne Rd

Vegetables and junk Golborne Rd

Tropical veg Golborne Rd

Tropical veg Golborne Rd

The north side of Golborne Road near to the Oporto has a group of fruit and vegetable barrows, which are in business on Fridays and Saturdays. The lively salesmen, who man them, joke a lot and yell out their special offers. Once I heard one of them shouting: “Collies, collies, collies … three collies, wuppa, wuppa, wuppa!” It took me a while to work out that three cauliflowers were being offered for one pound. Apart from ‘European’ fruit and vegetables, they also sell tropical foods. These greengrocery stalls have been present ever since I began working in Golborne Road, but this is not the case for the several pavement-side stalls containing kitchens where delicious Moroccan food is cooked and consumed.

Al Houida Golborne Mosque

Al Houida Golborne Mosque

There are two shops, Le Marrakech and Le Maroc, selling the conical ceramic containers for cooking tagines. Both are Morroccan groceries, which include in-house halal butchers. Near them, there is a shop frontage, the entrance to the Al Huda Mosque, a small mosque with room for only thirty men. The mosque on nearby Acklam Road (see above) can accommodate 1500 worshipers (men and women). Both mosques, although open to all worshipers, caters for the local North African community.

Unrestored half of Price and Sons

Unrestored half of Price and Sons

Le Maroc’s neighbour is the double-fronted “E Price & Sons. English and Foreign Fruiterers and Greengrocers”. One half of the shop, the left as you face it, is closed-up and dilapidated. The other half was restored in 2017. When I worked in Golborne Road, the shop was fully open, and staffed by an elderly pair, a brother and sister. They used to be out on the pavement peeling the deteriorating outer leaves off cabbages and lettuces. As a result, day after day, the peeled items gradually decreased in size. It was a place where I only bought fruit and vegetables as a last resort.

Restored half of Price and Sons and Le Maroc

Restored half of Price and Sons and Le Maroc

Tagine pots at a Moroccan shop in Golborne Rd

Tagine pots at a Moroccan shop in Golborne Rd

Restored half of Price and Sons and Le Maroc

Restored half of Price and Sons and Le Maroc

Recently, young members of the Price family have restored one half of the shop, and have begun selling a wide selection of groceries, some basic and others luxury, in their very attractive shop. The large, healthy, fresh cabbages that they have on offer are a complete contrast to what used to be available in the 1990s from the ageing siblings, who died in about 2016. Nearby, there is a ‘cash and carry’ shop run by some Sikhs. This has an extensive stock of ingredients required for preparing food from the Indian subcontinent, as well as for several other non-British cuisines.

Cash and Carry at 84 Golborne Rd

Cash and Carry at 84 Golborne Rd

Galicia Portobello Rd

Galicia Portobello Rd

The Galicia is a Spanish restaurant on Portobello Road, a few feet south of Golborne Road. Its name, that of a north-western part of Spain, reflects the origin of many of the local Spaniards, who live around Golborne Road. Although there have been Spaniards living in London since mediaeval times (a notable example is Eleanor of Castile [1241-1290], whose death is commemorated in several places including Charing Cross), there was a significant influx of refugees from Spain to North Kensington during the Spanish Civil War.

Spanish Institute Portobello Rd

Spanish Institute Portobello Rd

I will not write much about Portobello Road, which is far better-known than Golborne, but I will mention the Spanish Institute (Instituto Español “Vicente Cañada Blanch”) close to Galicia. It is an independent co-educational school run by the Spanish government. It follows the Spanish school curriculum, and is housed in a former Dominican convent. The rather grim-looking brick building surrounded by brick walls was built in 1862 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol37/pp298-332#h3-0012), designed by Henry Clutton (1819-93), and later modified by his student John Francis Bentley (1839-1902). On Saturdays, there is a lively flea market on the stretch of Portobello road where this Spanish school stands.

Georges Portobello Fish Bar

Georges Portobello Fish Bar

Going north along Portobello across Golborne Road, you will soon reach George’s Portobello Fish Bar, which was founded by the late George Periccos from Cyprus and has been in business since 1961 (see: https://www.timeandleisure.co.uk/articles/food/1123-fish-and-chips). I used to buy lunch there occasionally. Incidentally, of all the localities where I have practised, none could begin to match the Portobello/Golborne area for the variety of reasonably-priced, good food available at lunchtime. Portobello Road continues north, and becomes steadily less interesting. Faraday and Bonchurch Roads both lead to Ladbroke Grove.

North Kensington Fire Station

North Kensington Fire Station

St Michael Ladbroke Grove

St Michael Ladbroke Grove

The attractive contemporary red and grey North Kensington Fire Station stands at the corner of Faraday Road and Ladbroke Grove. It opened in 1984, replacing an older one that had been in almost the same location since 1882 (see: http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/150/map-of-london-fire-stations.asp). The parish church of St Michael is a few yards south of the fire station. Built mainly in brick in 1871, it was designed by James Edmeston Junior (1823-98). Pevsner describes its style as “Rhineland Romanesque”.

The Eagle Ladbroke Grove

The Eagle Ladbroke Grove

Proceeding north along Ladbroke Grove, after passing the fire station, the Eagle pub is reached. This pub has been in business since the beginning of the 1870s.

Ladbroke Grove Railway Bridge

Ladbroke Grove Railway Bridge

Kensal House Ladbroke Grove

Kensal House Ladbroke Grove

Kensal House Ladbroke Grove

Kensal House Ladbroke Grove

Further north, the Grove crosses the railway over an impressive metal bridge, whose girders are richly covered with the dome-like heads of rivets. Kensal House, a slightly curved apartment block on the west side of Ladbroke Grove, was opened in 1937. Its principal architect was Maxwell Fry (1899-1987). He was one of the few British exponents of the Modernist Style that included Walter Gröpius of Bauhaus fame, as well as Le Corbusier. Fry was assisted in the designing of Kensal House by Elizabeth Denby (1894-1965), who was an expert on social housing.

Detail of  330 Ladbroke Grove under restoration by Cubic

Detail of 330 Ladbroke Grove under restoration by Cubic

There is a small house, number 330 Ladbroke Grove, which was under restoration in late 2017. The restorers have added an old carved stone to its façade. The stone, which looks like a milestone or boundary marker, reads “KP 1860”. KP might mean Kensington Parish. Old, pre-restoration photographs of the building do not show the stone, which means that it might not have originally been located here. Whatever the inscription means, the northern half of Ladbroke Road is a parish boundary along much of its length.

Canalside

Canalside

The brick building with stone facings just south of the bridge over the Paddington branch of the Regents Canal is aptly named Canalside. It is almost all that remains of an extensive gasworks that was built on a site now partly occupied by a large branch (built 1989) of Sainsbury supermarket and its car park. The Gas, Light, and Coke Company that owned the gasworks was responsible for the building of Kensal House, already noted above. A couple of gasometers can be seen west of the store. They are sandwiched between the mainly Victorian Kensal Green Cemetery and the railway tracks that lead to and from Paddington Station.

Townhouse in The sky

Townhouse in The sky

Close to the supermarket and Canalside, there is a modified water tower. Mounted on its four original concrete legs, there is a cylindrical structure which has several windows and is clad with wood. Tom Dixon, the designer associated with the Habitat chain of furnishing stores, bought the disused water tower, and had, by 2009, converted its 5000-gallon cylindrical tank into his futuristic high-altitude home, the ‘Townhouse in the sky’. The water tower had been built in the 1930s to store water to be used in case of fire braking out in the gasworks spread out below it.

Ladbroke Grove railway crash monument

Ladbroke Grove railway crash monument

On Monday the 4th of October 1999, I arrived earlier than usual at Paddington Station from Maidenhead, where I worked several days a week. Being early, I bought my ticket to Maidenhead for the following day. Usually, I bought my ticket a few minutes before boarding the train at Paddington. On Tuesday the 5th, having already purchased my ticket I did not have to waste time at the ticket office, and was able to take the train before the one that I usually boarded at a few minutes past 8 am. Had I boarded my usual train, the 8.06, I might not be writing this today. My ‘usual train’, a local stopping train, collided head-on with a heavier express train (travelling at high speed) very close to the branch of Sainsburys mentioned above. Thirty-one people were killed, mainly of them passengers on the local train leaving Paddington and well over four hundred people were injured. A simple stone monument to the victims of this accident, inscribed with the names of those killed, stands between Sainsburys and the railway tracks. Whenever I think of this incident, I shudder, and say inwardly: “There for the Grace of God…”

Barlby Gardens

Barlby Gardens

Returning south along Ladbroke Grove and turning into Barlby Road, we pass Barlby Gardens, a short crescent lined with houses of the type that can be found in almost any of the housing developments built in London’s suburbs during the years between the two World Wars. They are a far cry from their terraced neighbours with porches supported by pillars, which are so typical of most parts of Kensington.

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

Hewer Street former laundry

Hewer Street former laundry

Exmoor Road leads towards the enormous Victorian St Charles Hospital compound. Along Hewer Street, which branches off Exmoor Street, there are some old brick buildings that once housed one of the many laundries that used to exist in the neighbourhood. Described as a “fortress-like pile” by Pevsner, this hospital was built 1879-81 and designed by Henry Saxon Snell (1831-1904), an architect who specialised in creating health-related buildings. It was built as a hospital for the poor by the Board of Guardians of the Poor Law Union of St Marylebone and known as the ‘St Marylebone Infirmary’ until 1922, when it was renamed briefly, before being re-named once more as St Charles Hospital in 1930 after having been taken over by the London County Council.

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

For lovers of Victorian architecture, this place with its open-air cast-iron walkways, and numerous gothic-revival features, is a real treasure. For the patients, who visit the numerous out-patient clinics which are now housed there, its exterior, redolent of oversized Victorian funerary chapels, might seem rather forbidding. However, the interiors have been pleasantly modernised, and made to look as welcoming as can be expected of hospitals.

Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite Monastery

By St Charles Hospital

By St Charles Hospital

The hospital abuts a Carmelite monastery. On the wall connecting the monastery and the hospital, there are two letter-boxes. One, now sealed up, bears the letters ‘VR’ standing for Queen Victoria. Its neighbour, still in use, bears the letters ‘GR’, which refer to one (or both) of the two King Georges that reigned after Victoria and Edward VII.

St PIUS X Church

St PIUS X Church

The Roman Catholic church of St Pius X can be entered from St Charles Square. Designed in a neo-classical style by PA Lamb and R O’B North, it was built in 1908 as part of the former St Charles Training College (for boys), which was founded by Doctor (later Cardinal) Henry Manning (1808-92) in 1863 and closed in 1903. After the college closed, its precincts including the church were taken over by the nuns of The Sacred Heart for use as a training establishment. The church became a parish church in 1955. Its barrel-vaulted interior, reminiscent of 18th century churches in Italy, is delightful and airy. A short walk leads from the church to Ladbroke Grove, about five hundred yards north of the funeral parlour, where this exploration commenced.

St PIUS X Church

St PIUS X Church

Golborne Road and its environs is an area where the multi-cultural nature of London can be explored enjoyably and rewardingly. Not being a lover of crowds, I would avoid the area during the annual world-famous Notting Hill Carnival, but that is not a view shared by many. The area is full of memories for me. I worked in its heart for several years, and became acquainted with many people who live there. I continue to visit it regularly to enjoy a coffee at Lisboa, to buy ‘presunto’, and to mingle amongst people enjoying the markets that flourish at the end of the week.

Golborne Rd bus stop

Golborne Rd bus stop

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:33 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london market morocco portugal kensington portobello golborne goldfinger Comments (2)

SELL THE WIFE AND HEAD FOR ISLINGTON

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

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

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

Smithfield Market

Smithfield Market

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

St Peters Italian church

St Peters Italian church

St Peters Italian church

St Peters Italian church

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

WW1 monument St Peters Italian church

WW1 monument St Peters Italian church

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

St Peters Italian church

St Peters Italian church

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

Farringdon Rd and Middlesex Session House

Farringdon Rd and Middlesex Session House

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

Well Court

Well Court

Well Court

Well Court

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

Turnmill street in 2 languages

Turnmill street in 2 languages

Farringdon station

Farringdon station

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

Cowcross St and pawnbrokers sign

Cowcross St and pawnbrokers sign

Faulkners Alley off Cowcross St

Faulkners Alley off Cowcross St

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

70 to 75 Cowcross Str

70 to 75 Cowcross Str

Denmark Hse Cowcroft Str built 1879

Denmark Hse Cowcroft Str built 1879

Cowcroft and Peter Streets

Cowcroft and Peter Streets

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

Smithfield north side with Barbican behind

Smithfield north side with Barbican behind

Smithfield mkt

Smithfield mkt

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

Smithfield mkt

Smithfield mkt

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

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

5 St Johns Str

5 St Johns Str

South end St Johns Str showing widening

South end St Johns Str showing widening

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

16 and 18 St johns Str

16 and 18 St johns Str

22 St john Str

22 St john Str

26 St John Str

26 St John Str

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

34 to 36 St Johns Str

34 to 36 St Johns Str

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

Building with bulls heads in Peters Lane

Building with bulls heads in Peters Lane

Building with bulls heads in Peters Lane

Building with bulls heads in Peters Lane

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

White Bear St Johns Str

White Bear St Johns Str

71 St John St

71 St John St

72 St Johns Str

72 St Johns Str

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

78 to 80 St john Str

78 to 80 St john Str

Passing Alley

Passing Alley

Passing Alley St Johns Str end

Passing Alley St Johns Str end

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

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

Former Cannon Brewery St Johns Str

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

158 to 173 St Johns Str

158 to 173 St Johns Str

Aylesbury Str

Aylesbury Str

Woodbridge Chapel

Woodbridge Chapel

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

St Johns Str old Nicholson's distillery

St Johns Str old Nicholson's distillery

A former Finch pub on Compton Str

A former Finch pub on Compton Str

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

Liberty Hse former gas meter factory

Liberty Hse former gas meter factory

Former Scholl factory now refaced St Johns Str

Former Scholl factory now refaced St Johns Str

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

North end of Sekforde Str

North end of Sekforde Str

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

The Peasant St johns Str

The Peasant St johns Str

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

Finsbury Library

Finsbury Library

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

Islington Museum

Islington Museum

Lenin in Islington Museum

Lenin in Islington Museum

New River pipes in Islington Museum

New River pipes in Islington Museum

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

City University

City University

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

Spa Green

Spa Green

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

Site of New River Head

Site of New River Head

Site of New River Head

Site of New River Head

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

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

Former Lab building Site of New River Head

Former Lab building Site of New River Head

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

Spa Green Estate

Spa Green Estate

St Johns Str opposite Spa Green Estate

St Johns Str opposite Spa Green Estate

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

Old Red Lion theatre pub

Old Red Lion theatre pub

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

Former Angel Hotel built 1903

Former Angel Hotel built 1903

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

Upper Str former LCC electrical substation

Upper Str former LCC electrical substation

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

Phelps Cottage 1838

Phelps Cottage 1838

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

View of Islington High Str from Upper Str

View of Islington High Str from Upper Str

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

Business Design Centre Islington

Business Design Centre Islington

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

Sir Hugh Mydelton

Sir Hugh Mydelton

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

Islington War Memorial on Islington Green

Islington War Memorial on Islington Green

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

The Screen on the Green

The Screen on the Green

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

Congregational Chapel Upper Str

Congregational Chapel Upper Str

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

Kings Head pub and theatre

Kings Head pub and theatre

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

St Marys Church

St Marys Church

St Marys Church

St Marys Church

west end of St Marys Church

west end of St Marys Church

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

Vicarage of St Marys Church

Vicarage of St Marys Church

The Mitre Upper Str

The Mitre Upper Str

Former Old Parrs Head pub

Former Old Parrs Head pub

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

Almeida Theatre

Almeida Theatre

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

Myddelton Hall  30 Almeida Str

Myddelton Hall 30 Almeida Str

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

Highbury Mansions

Highbury Mansions

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

Waterloo Hse 155 Upper Str

Waterloo Hse 155 Upper Str

Islington Town Hall

Islington Town Hall

Tyndale Mansions built 1926

Tyndale Mansions built 1926

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

Sutton Dwellings

Sutton Dwellings

Compton Terrace Gardens

Compton Terrace Gardens

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

Compton Terrace started 1806

Compton Terrace started 1806

Union Chapel

Union Chapel

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

V1 memorial Highbury Corner

V1 memorial Highbury Corner

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

Old Highbury tube station

Old Highbury tube station

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

Compton Terrace Gardens

Compton Terrace Gardens

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

BIRYANI, BAGELS, AND ... A YURT

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

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

Brick Lane on Sunday

Brick Lane on Sunday

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

Brick Lane arch

Brick Lane arch

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

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

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

Spitalfields Column by Richard Perry 1995

Spitalfields Column by Richard Perry 1995

Hoop and Grapes pub Aldgate High Str

Hoop and Grapes pub Aldgate High Str

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

Altab Ali Park

Altab Ali Park

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

Sheed Minar Monument replica in Altab Ali Park

Sheed Minar Monument replica in Altab Ali Park

Gate to Altab Ali Park

Gate to Altab Ali Park

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

Altab Ali Park  former St Marys Clergy House

Altab Ali Park former St Marys Clergy House

St Boniface German RC Church

St Boniface German RC Church

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

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery: former library

Whitechapel Art Gallery: former library

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

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery

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

Whitechapel Art Gallery: Anarchist bookshop

Whitechapel Art Gallery: Anarchist bookshop

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

Khushbu restaurant

Khushbu restaurant

Sonali Bank Osborn Str

Sonali Bank Osborn Str

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

Former Ye Frying Pan pub

Former Ye Frying Pan pub

Confectionery shop Brick La

Confectionery shop Brick La

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

Pride of Spitalfields pub Heneage Str

Pride of Spitalfields pub Heneage Str

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

Fashion Street

Fashion Street

Fashion Street

Fashion Street

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

Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Plaque on Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Plaque on Christ Church Primary School Brick La

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

Jumma Masjid

Jumma Masjid

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

Fournier Str

Fournier Str

Fournier Str and Wilkes Str

Fournier Str and Wilkes Str

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

Princelet Str

Princelet Str

Birthplace of Miriam Moses in Princelet Str

Birthplace of Miriam Moses in Princelet Str

Princelet Str

Princelet Str

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

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

restaurant

restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

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

Hafiz barber shop, Brick Lane

Hafiz barber shop, Brick Lane

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

Mayfair Brick Lane

Mayfair Brick Lane

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

Trumans Brick La

Trumans Brick La

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

Trumans Brick La Barrel filling room beneath brewery

Trumans Brick La Barrel filling room beneath brewery

Trumans Brick Lane: barrel-rolling rails

Trumans Brick Lane: barrel-rolling rails

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

Trumans Brick Lane: Sir Thomas Buxton lived here

Trumans Brick Lane: Sir Thomas Buxton lived here

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

Brick Lane Bookshop

Brick Lane Bookshop

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

Sclater Street

Sclater Street

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

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

Brick Lane on Sunday

Brick Lane on Sunday

Sunday at Brick Lane

Sunday at Brick Lane

Sunday Brick Lane

Sunday Brick Lane

Brick Lane Sunday

Brick Lane Sunday

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

Brick Lane Sunday

Brick Lane Sunday

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

Beigel bakery queue

Beigel bakery queue

Beigel bakery Brick Lane

Beigel bakery Brick Lane

Beigel Bakery Brick Lane - old prices!

Beigel Bakery Brick Lane - old prices!

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

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

Padbury Court

Padbury Court

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

Buxton Str

Buxton Str

Buxton Street

Buxton Street

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

Old St patricks School Brick Lane

Old St patricks School Brick Lane

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

Cooperage Spital Street

Cooperage Spital Street

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

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

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

Spitalfields City Farm yurt

Spitalfields City Farm yurt

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

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

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

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

Brick Lane on Sunday

Brick Lane on Sunday

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

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

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]