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TAKE A STROLL ALONG THE STRAND

Strolling along London's Strand can be an evocative experience, as many of today’s sights reflect, either in substance or merely in their names, the rich history associated with this lively thoroughfare.

['Pepper pot' towers at corner of Adelaide Street and the Strand

'Pepper pot' towers at corner of Adelaide Street and the Strand

"Come, Fortescue, sincere, experienced friend,
Thy briefs, thy deeds, and e’en thy fees suspend;
Come, let us leave the Temple’s silent walls;
My business to my distant lodging calls;
Through the long Strand together let us stray,
With thee conversing, I forget the way
.”

John Gay (1685-1732)

The Strand runs from Trafalgar Square to Temple Bar. The street’s name derives from the Old English word meaning ‘seashore’ or ‘beach’. During Roman times, the Strand was part of a road leading to Silchester. Later, it became the main route between the City of London and the palace at Westminster. It acquired its present name in the 11th century. A map published in 1578 shows the Strand as a street bordered on each side by houses. Those on the south side had gardens running down to the bank of the River Thames. Those on the northern side backed onto open countryside: fields and gardens (e.g. Covent Garden). From the 12th century onwards, many wealthy people built palaces mainly along the south side of the Strand. During the 17th century, many of these opulent homes were demolished when their owners moved to the up and coming areas in the West End. In their place, theatres, shops, offices, banks, inns, and hotels, were built. This situation remains unchanged.

Mon Plaisir Monmouth Str

Mon Plaisir Monmouth Str

Oldest part of Mon Plaisir Monmouth Str

Oldest part of Mon Plaisir Monmouth Str

This exploration begins north of the Strand in Monmouth Street. This leads south to the Seven Dials (see below). From the 17th century onwards, it was home to wealthy merchants and lawyers, but by the end of the 18th, it had become a slum. In recent decades, its affluence has improved. The Mon Plaisir in Monmouth Street is a French eatery that was opened in during the 1940s (see: https://www.monplaisir.co.uk/about-us/history/). My parents often ate there in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Now occupying two shopfronts, it used to be confined to one of them when I first went there as a child. The décor of the original part has been faithfully preserved. I wonder whether the artist’s palette with the words ‘pipi room’ still exists.

Mercer Str near The 7 Dials

Mercer Str near The 7 Dials

Monmouth Street leads to the Seven Dials, from which seven streets radiate like spokes of a wheel (as in many parts of Paris). The street layout was created in the 1690s by a property developer Thomas Neale (1641-1699), an MP who formed the first postal service in the North American colonies in 1691. Mercer Street, one of the seven ‘spokes’ has some fine old shopfronts (numbers 23, 25, and 27). One of these (possibly number 25) might have been the ‘St Lukes Head’ pub, which is mentioned in “The Truthteller”, by W.E. Andrews (publ. 1826).

Inside Ching Court

Inside Ching Court

Two Brewers pub on south part of Monmouth Str

Two Brewers pub on south part of Monmouth Str

Continuing along Monmouth Street, we reach Ching Court. Named after an architectural ironmonger company ‘Comyn Ching’ (which was not a Chinese name), which stood here for over 200 years, this peaceful courtyard with a tree is surrounded by many 18th century buildings. It was restored in the 1980s. Almost opposite the entrance to the courtyard, is the Two Brewers pub, which moved from its original address near St Giles Church to is present one in the 1940s. Its grandiose white stone and brick façade contrasts with its much older and simpler brick built neighbours.

St Giles in the Fields parish marker and Equity at southern end of Monmouth Str

St Giles in the Fields parish marker and Equity at southern end of Monmouth Str

West Street marks the point where Monmouth Street becomes Upper St Martins Lane. The actor’s (and other professional performers’) trade union Equity occupies a building on the eastern corner of this street. This edifice bears a small plaque (overlooking West Street) with the letters “SFG” and the date “1691”. This is a boundary marker for the parish of St Giles in the Fields, whose boundaries have been subject to many alterations over the years (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol5/pt2/pp1-2).

Former County Court    St Martins Lane 1908

Former County Court St Martins Lane 1908

The Salisbury pub,  St Martins Lane

The Salisbury pub, St Martins Lane

Further south on St Martins Lane, stands the former Westminster County Court, an elegant building faced with white stone. It was designed by HN Hawks of the Office of Works and decorated with carvings by Gilbert Seale (1881-1930), who also worked on sculptures in the Old Bailey. The court was built in 1908 on the site of an earlier court building, which appears on an 1876 map. Now, the building is occupied by Browns, a ‘brasserie’ and bar, but the façade is well-preserved.

St Martins Lane End of Goodwins Ct

St Martins Lane End of Goodwins Ct

Goodwins Court

Goodwins Court

The Salisbury, a little further south, is a riotously decorated, fine example of late Victorian pub decoration. Almost opposite it across the road, there is a narrow gap between the buildings. This is the western entrance of Goodwin’s Court, a truly unsuspected delight, which was pointed out to me by my friend the author Roy Moxham. An unexceptional narrow covered passage leads to a slightly wider alley lined on its south side by several shopfronts with bow windows. All of them date back to the late 18th century. The east end of the court is on Bedfordbury, which leads south to Chandos Place.

Former Charing Cross Hospital

Former Charing Cross Hospital

The southern side of Chandos Place is occupied by a large building, which is now the Charing Cross Police Station. The oldest part of this building, which began life as the former Charing Cross Hospital and was built 1831-34, was designed by Decimus Burton (1800-81), who also designed, amongst many other buildings, the Athenaeum and the Palm House at Kew Gardens. The building was much altered by James Thompson in 1877, and then by A Saxon Snell (1831-1904) in 1903. In the late 1950s, the hospital moved to its present site in Fulham, and now (2017) faces possible closure.

Adelaide Street

Adelaide Street

Chandos Place leads southwest into Adelaide Street, whose eastern side is occupied by a building built in 1830 and planned by John Nash (1752-1835), the principal architect of Regency London. The corner of the building (facing Charing Cross Station) has two ‘pepper-pot’ shaped towers. Near these, there is a monument to Oscar Wilde sculpted in 1998 by Maggi Hambling, who once offered to paint a portrait of my father while he was a Trustee of the National Gallery.

Oscar Wilde by Maggi Hambling Adelaide Str

Oscar Wilde by Maggi Hambling Adelaide Str

TheCharing Cross

TheCharing Cross

In the forecourt of Charing Cross Station (opened 1864) on the Strand, there is a Victorian replica of an Eleanor Cross, one of several ornamental crosses (all originally constructed in the late 13th century) to mark where the corpse of Queen Eleanor rested on its trip from Lincoln to Westminster Abbey in 1290. The original location of the Charing Cross was a few yards further west (see below). The replica was made in 1883; the original was destroyed in 1647.

1977 storm plaques at Chring Cross Stn

1977 storm plaques at Chring Cross Stn

Just east of the cross at the north-western corner of Villiers Street, there are two plaques relating to the great storm of October 1987, which destroyed about 250,000 trees in south-east England, the area to which trains from Charing Cross travel. I was living in Kent when the storm hit, and remember that it was so strong that I could feel my brick house literally rocking in the buffeting winds. Walk down Villiers Street, and then turn left to enter the Victoria Embankment Gardens.

York Watergate

York Watergate

There, stands the decorative neo-classical York Watergate. Designed by Inigo Jones (1573-1652), this was constructed (with stairs leading down into the river) in 1626. It was the riverside entrance of York House (built in 1620 for George Villiers [1592-1628], the first Duke of Buckingham), one of several grand palaces along the south side of the Strand. The gate’s position, now well inland from the river, marks the position of the bank of the Thames as it was until 1870, when the Gardens were built on reclaimed land.

Buckingham Street

Buckingham Street

Near the old Watergate, there is a plaque recording that the diarist Samuel Pepys, the statesman Robert Harley, and the painters William Etty and Clarkson Stanfield, lived in a house that used to stand where the memorial is located. Follow Buckingham Street, with its surviving 18th century houses, uphill to reach John Adam Street (marked as ‘Duke Street on a 1682 map). At this point, the street, named after the architect John Adam (1721-92), is several feet lower than the Strand, demonstrating the steepness of the river bank leading down to the Watergate.

Steps up to The Strand from Buckingham Str

Steps up to The Strand from Buckingham Str

John Adams Street runs steeply uphill in a north-easterly direction. The caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827) lived in a house near the present Durham House. The latter was built on the site of Durham House, which existed in various forms from about 1345 until the mid-18th century when the Adam brothers, John and Robert (1728-92), constructed the Adelphi (see below). Further up the hill, occupying a corner plot, is the elegant brick and stone neo-classical (neo-Palladian) Royal Society of Arts (‘RSA’). Built in 1772-74, this was designed by the Adams brothers as part of their Adelphi development.

Royal Society of Arts John Adam Str

Royal Society of Arts John Adam Str

John Adams Str

John Adams Str

The Adelphi housing development, designed by the Adams brothers, began to be built in 1772 on the grounds of the former Durham House. Had the Adelphi survived intact, it would have rivalled some of the finest rows of houses still standing in Paris. But, it did not. From the 1870s onwards, chunks of this masterpiece of urban architecture were demolished to make way for newer buildings such as the art-deco Adelphi building, designed by Collcutt and Hamp, and built in the late 1930s. Even though this building has some lovely features such as the bas-relief friezes around its entrance on John Adams Street, it is a poor substitute for what must have been some of the finest neo-Palladian buildings in London.

Art-deco detail on Adelphi Building John Adams Str

Art-deco detail on Adelphi Building John Adams Str

Adam House Adam Str

Adam House Adam Str

Sir Richard Arkwright lived here

Sir Richard Arkwright lived here

Adelphi Terrace

Adelphi Terrace

Luckily for us, some of the Adelphi remains, for example: Adam House in Adam Street and its neighbour, where the inventor and industrialist Sir Richard Arkwright (1732-92) lived. Other 18th century buildings still stand in Robert Street, Adelphi Terrace (the lower storey of number 11, which is a survivor of the original Adelphi, gives a good idea of what has been lost), and York Buildings.

Adelphi Theatre Strand

Adelphi Theatre Strand

Vaudeville Theatre Strand

Vaudeville Theatre Strand

Adam Street leads to the Strand opposite the aptly named Adelphi Theatre, which was founded in 1806. It was redesigned and rebuilt in its present art-deco style in 1930 by Ernest Schaufelberg (1892–1970), who also designed the Fortune Theatre near Covent Garden. A few yards east of this theatre, is another: The Vaudeville. Its white stone façade (built 1889) has neo-classical features. First opened in 1870, the theatre has undergone many internal modifications.

Former Bun Shop pub,  417 the Strand

Former Bun Shop pub, 417 the Strand

Just west of the Adelphi Theatre, there is a narrow building (number 417 Strand) with half-timbering just below its steeply angled roof. Now home to The Port House tapas bar, this was once a pub called ‘The Bun House’ (opened about 1890), and then later ‘the Tram Shed’, and then ‘Yates Brothers Wine Lodge, which closed in 1981 (see: https://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/StMartins/BunShop.shtml).

Zimbabwe House

Zimbabwe House

Epstein sculptures on  Zimbabwe House

Epstein sculptures on Zimbabwe House

Walking west from the Port House, you reach Zimbabwe House. Designed by Charles Holden (1875-1960), who was the architect of many Underground stations, this building, faced with stone, on a corner plot was originally the ‘home’ of the British Medical Association. A series of weather-beaten, mutilated sculptures separate the windows on the second floor. They were carved by the American-born sculptor Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) in 1908, a year after the building was erected. The nudity displayed in the figures shocked many folk (see: http://www.artandarchitecture.org.uk/insight/brockington_epstein/brockington_epstein02.html). The mutilation of Epstein’s work resulted from the deliberate neglect by the Rhodesian High Commission of the crumbling sculptures, which had been damaged by London’s polluted air, when they took over the building in the 1930s (see: https://lookup.london/jacob-epstein-scandal-strand/).

Former Cecil Hotel

Former Cecil Hotel

Cecil Chambers Strand

Cecil Chambers Strand

Crossing to the south side of the Strand and proceeding eastwards, we reach the grand façade of number 80, behind which lurks Shell Mex House (built 1930-31), which is visible from across the Thames. The façade, a glorious Victorian neo-classical structure, is all that remains of the former Cecil Hotel, which was opened in 1889, and used to cover where Shell Mex House now stands. When it opened with over 800 rooms, it became one of the largest hotels in Europe. A plaque in its centrally placed Strand entrance records that it was in the hotel that the Royal Air Force (‘RAF’) was founded in 1918. The site occupied by the hotel and then Shell Mex House was originally where the former (aristocratic) Salisbury (aka Cecil) House stood during the 17th century, its gardens reaching the Thames. The Salisbury estate was sold in 1880 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol18/pt2/pp120-123). The office building at number 86 is called Cecil Chambers.

Coal Hole Strand

Coal Hole Strand

The Coal Hole pub (built 1903-04, architect: TE Colcutt [1840-1924]) with is flamboyant façade, and the Savoy Taylors Guild, separate the former Cecil Hotel from the still extant Savoy Hotel. The pub, which is built into an extension of the Savoy occupies the position of the former coal cellar of the hotel.

Savoy Tailors Guild

Savoy Tailors Guild

Several months before I took my final examinations in dentistry, I bought a bespoke double-breasted suit from the Savoy Taylors Guild for my viva-voce examinations. Just before the examination date, our home was burgled. Although the burglar had rummaged through our possessions, he did not take much except a few silver spoons and my new suit. I felt gratified that it was my new suit that the thief had thought worth having, rather than my father’s far more fancy suits in his wardrobe.

Savoy Hotel driveway

Savoy Hotel driveway

It was at the Savoy Hotel that I tasted my first ever Dry Martini. I was a teenager, and had no idea what I had ordered. I thought that I was going to get a glass of dry Martini, rather than mostly gin. The hotel, founded in 1889 by Richard D’ Oyly Carte (1844-1901) with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan operetta productions, is still one of the world’s most glamorous luxury hotels. It was designed by CJ Phipps and TE Colcutt. The short road leading up to its main entrance is unique in the UK because cars are required to drive on the right side of the road instead of the normal left. This feature enabled Hackney Cab drivers to open the passenger’s door without having to leave his seat. The hotel has had many famous guests. Among the less well-known was one of my father’s students at the London School of Economics (‘LSE’) from overseas, the son of a multi-millionaire, who told him that he lived in a suite in the Savoy because: “…it is so convenient for the LSE.”

Strand Palace Hotel

Strand Palace Hotel

The Savoy is across the road from the Strand Palace Hotel, which is (according to Nikolaus Pevsner) faced with artificial stone. Built by 1930, the hotel used to have a fabulous jazzy art-deco entrance and lobby. This was replaced by a more mundane design in the late 1960s. Incidentally, it was in this hotel that my parents spent the first night after their wedding in 1948.

Simpsons Strand

Simpsons Strand

Simpsons Strand

Simpsons Strand

Simpsons in the Strand is just east of the Savoy Hotel, and is part of Savoy Buildings. This establishment was founded in 1828 as a ‘smoking room’, but quickly became one of London’s leading restaurants, famous for its traditional English fare. In 1898, D’Oyly Carte acquired the restaurant. Its colourful entrance has tiles depicting part of a chess board with chess pieces above the revolving door. This motif alludes to the restaurant’s importance in British chess in the 19th century. Brass plates wrapped around pillars by the entrance bear the words “Simpson’s Divan Tavern”. This recalls the existence on this spot of ‘Samuel Reiss’s Grand Cigar Divan’, which opened in 1828 on the site of the former 18th century ‘Fountain Tavern’. This old inn, where the political opponents of Sir Robert Walpole (in office between 1727 and 1740) met, is commemorated by a plaque on the west side of the main entrance to Savoy Buildings.

Savoy Chapel

Savoy Chapel

Savoy Street leads down towards the river from the Strand, and runs alongside the grounds of the small gothic Savoy Chapel, a royal chapel, which is surrounded on two sides by the backs of the much taller Savoy Hotel and Buildings. It was first built between 1510 and ’15 as part of the Hospital of St John, founded by Henry VII for the homeless, which the king hoped would rival the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital in Florence (see: “Winter King”, by T Penn, publ. 2012). The hospital used to stand on the land where the Savoy Palace of the king’s ancestor John of Gaunt (1340-1399) once stood.

Savoy Chapel from Savoy Steps

Savoy Chapel from Savoy Steps

Savoy Chapel

Savoy Chapel

During the reign (1820-30) of George IV, and at his expense, the chapel was repaired and improved. This work included the construction of the bell turret designed by Robert Smirke (1780-1867). The beautiful interior has a magnificent colourful ceiling and dates from the time when improvements were made in the 1860s. The hall to the east of the chapel contains a small exhibition of the history of the place.

India Restaurant and St Mary le Strand

India Restaurant and St Mary le Strand

After crossing Lancaster Place, which is the northern approach to Waterloo Bridge, we reach the narrow number 143, home of the Hotel Strand Continental. Its unprepossessing, shabby staircase leads up to the second floor, which has been home to The India Club Restaurant since 1946, a year before India became independent.

India Club Restaurant Strand

India Club Restaurant Strand

The management have retained the restaurant’s original décor to such an extent that if one its earliest customers, say, the Indian nationalist and politician Krishna Menon (1896-1974) who studied at the nearby LSE, were to step in today, he would recognise it instantly. I love the place not so much for its food but for its dowdy evocative ambience. On the first floor, there is a small bar, which would not look out of place in one of India’s many surviving ex-colonial clubs. Until a few years ago, alcoholic drinks were only available to fully paid-up members of the India Club. However, the annual membership fee of this was only fifty pence. Worryingly, this historic establishment is (2017) under threat of demolition by developers.

St Mary le Strand and St Clement Danes

St Mary le Strand and St Clement Danes

Somerset House

Somerset House

Just before the Strand is split into two lanes by the island on which stands the Church of St Mary-le-Strand (established since before the 12th century, the present building was designed by James Gibbs [1682-1754] in the early 18th century), we reach the impressive neo-classical Somerset House. Designed by the Swedish born William Chambers (1723-96), it was built in 1776 to house government departments and learned societies. The land where it stands was formerly occupied by a palatial earlier Somerset House with a terrace overlooking the Thames, which was at times home to royalty. Gradually, the older building (refurbished by Sir Christopher Wren in 1685) fell into disrepair, and was demolished in 1775. Today, the building houses, amongst other organisations, the Courtauld Institute of Art – a centre of excellence for the study of history of art, and the Courtauld Gallery with its fine collection of Impressionist (and earlier) paintings. In summer, a terrace overlooking the Thames is used as an outdoor café, and in winter the huge courtyard becomes a public skating rink.

Rear of Bush House facing Strand

Rear of Bush House facing Strand

To the north of St Mary-le-Strand and facing it, there is a pediment containing a bas-relief of a boat with wind-filled sails superimposed on a map of part of the world. This is affixed to the rear of Bush House (see below). Somerset House’s immediate neighbour is an unexciting modern building (erected 1966-71), which serves as part of King’s College (founded in 1829) along with adjoining parts of Somerset House. Recently, archaeological evidence has demonstrated that Somerset House stands on land that was part of Saxon Lundenwic (see below).

Roof of Australia House

Roof of Australia House

The college faces Australia House, which has a green roof with several circular and rectangular mansard windows. Created by the architect Alexander Marshall Mackenzie (1848-1933), this building, which has a steel framework, was opened in 1918. The quadriga high above the eastern entrance was sculpted by H Parker. The house stands on the site of an ancient well that drew water from the River Fleet (see: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-10/holy-well-lies-underneath-australia-house-in-london/7061722).

Strand Station Strand entrance

Strand Station Strand entrance

A few yards east of King’s College, there is a plaque on an otherwise blank wall. It records that the influential Master Astrologer William Lilly (1602-81) lived on this site. The wall is the western side of an entrance, now blocked-up, to Strand (aka Aldwych) Underground Station, which opened in 1907 and closed in 1994. It was the terminus of a spur of the Piccadilly Line, which branched off at Holborn Station.

Strand Station Surrey Street side

Strand Station Surrey Street side

Strand Station ticket hall

Strand Station ticket hall

There is a larger terracotta-coloured tiled façade of this station on Surrey Street. When I visited the area, the heavy folding door guarding the old station entrance was slightly open. Through it, I could see into the perfectly preserved old-fashioned, ticket hall with its tiling that reaches from the floor to about six feet above it. The station is usually locked up, but occasionally the public can book to be taken on guided tours of this ‘ghost’ station.

Former Norfolk Hotel Surrey Str

Former Norfolk Hotel Surrey Str

Former Norfolk Hotel Surrey Str

Former Norfolk Hotel Surrey Str

There is another ‘ghost’ establishment downhill from the former station. Now a part of King’s College, this building, with its fussy neo-renaissance stone decorations in bas-relief and its cast-iron porticos, still retains a stone notice proclaiming its former incarnation as the ‘Norfolk Hotel’. During WW2, the hotel was patronised by French agents of the Special Operations Executive, and, earlier, the writer Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) stayed there (see: https://openhouselondon.open-city.org.uk/listings/4899 and “Conrad To A Friend: 150 Selected Letters From Joseph Conrad To Richard Curle”, ed. by R Curle, publ. 1928). Attached to the hotel, there is a sign giving directions to a Roman bath. In the 19th century, this was believed to be a bath built by the Romans, but recent research has revealed that it was built as a feeder cistern for a grotto fountain in the gardens of the Somerset House that existed before Chambers constructed the present building.

St Clement Danes

St Clement Danes

Returning to the Strand, and heading east, there is another church on an ‘island’. This is St Clement Danes, a place of worship which has been in existence since the period of the Danish occupation of Britain (11th century). The present building is the result of Christopher Wren’s rebuilding of an earlier one in the early 1680s. Nikolaus Pevsner remarks that: “… it is unique amongst Wren’s churches in that the aisles were carried around the E end as an ambulatory and that an apse was added, perhaps on the pattern of the first St Clement Danes.” Badly damaged in 1941 during WW2, and carefully restored after it, the church is now the ‘RAF church’ in London.

Royal Courts of Justice

Royal Courts of Justice

A little to the east of the church on the north side of the Strand, there is a masterpiece of Victorian gothic building: The Royal Courts of Justice (‘RCJ’). Built during the 1870s, and designed by the mainly ecclesiastical architect George Street (1824-81), this opened for judicial business in 1882. Entering the main hall (the Great Hall) of the building, which is open to public visitors, is like stepping into a huge gothic cathedral. It is an uplifting experience. The courts in this remarkable edifice are dedicated to hearing civil, rather than criminal, cases.

Twinings

Twinings

Almost opposite the main entrance to the courts, there is a narrow shop, whose entrance is flanked by two pillars with capitals decorated with leaves like the plant motifs on ancient Egyptian pillars. These support a triangular pediment, in which there are two seated coloured sculptures depicting Chinese men.

Twinings

Twinings

This is the entrance to Twinings shop, which sells packets of teas and coffees, although it is most famous for teas. The present shop is on the site of the company’s original store, which was established in 1706. At the far end of the long narrow shop there is (2017), a bar where knowledgeable staff inform customers about different kinds of teas, as well as prepare samples for tasting.

Temple Bar Memorial

Temple Bar Memorial

A winged dragon, mounted on a decorated stone plinth, stands in the middle of the Strand near the easternmost point of the RCJ. This, the Temple Bar Memorial (designed by Horace Jones), was erected in 1880. It marks both the eastern end of the Strand as well as the position of the former Temple Bar. This was a gateway that served as the main ceremonial entrance to the City of London on the route taken by royalty between the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London. The name ‘Temple’ derives from its proximity to the Temple Church and the Inns of Court (Middle and Inner). The ‘Bar’ or barrier was first mentioned in 12th century documents. In about 1672, a wonderful sculpted, stone gateway with three arches, possibly designed by Christopher Wren, was built to serve as the Temple Bar.

Original Temple Bar, now in Paternoster Sq

Original Temple Bar, now in Paternoster Sq

This attractive encumbrance to the smooth flow of traffic remained in position until it was carefully dismantled in 1878 (to relieve congestion), and was reassembled to stand in Theobalds Park in Middlesex. There it remained until 2003. By 2005, it had been reassembled in its new location, Paternoster Square near St Pauls Cathedral, where it can be seen in all its glory.

Returning west along the north side of the Strand, we reach the eastern end of the Aldwych. This crescent stands about a mile west of Roman Londinium, and was the site of a 7th century Anglo-Saxon village named Lundenwic (see: “Archaeology in British Towns: From the Emperor Claudius to the Black Death”, by P Ottaway, publ. 1972). The name of the area changed to ‘Aldewich’, which was first recorded in 1211. The present street layout, lined with many buildings in the ‘Imperial Palladian’ style has existed since the start of the 20th century.

Bush House Aldwych

Bush House Aldwych

Close to Australia House, which has a side facing the Aldwych, is Bush House. Designed between 1925 and ’35 by the American architects Helmle and Corbett, this was for many years a home of the British Broadcasting Company (‘BBC’) World Service. The portico of its entrance facing Kingsway, with its half dome supported by two tall white pillars and a ring of sturdy square pilasters, is designed to impress. The BBC left the building in 2008, and now parts of it are used by King’s College.

London School of Economics and Wright's bar, Houghton Str

London School of Economics and Wright's bar, Houghton Str

Houghton Street, which leads north off the eastern wing of the Aldwych is mainly occupied by the LSE. Founded in 1895 by members of the socialist Fabian Society, this has become a world-famous centre of excellence in many fields including: economics, sociology, and law. My father was a Professor of Economics there for several decades. As university campuses go, I have always found it unappealing. Wright’s Bar next to the main entrance has been in existence ever since I can remember (the late 1950s).

India House

India House

India House: an Indian provincial emblem

India House: an Indian provincial emblem

Since marrying a lady born in India, I have had many opportunities to visit India House on the western arm of the Aldwych. Built 1928-30 and designed by Herbert Baker (1862-1946) with AT Scott, this stone building is profusely decorated with Ashoka lions and many circular, coloured emblems, which were those of the pre-Independence (and pre-Partition) colonial provinces (e.g. ‘Baluchistan’, ‘United Provinces’, ‘Burma’, ‘Madras’ and ‘North West Frontier’).

India House: British Imperial crests

India House: British Imperial crests


Looking upwards, there are two elaborate crests each topped with heraldic lions and including the mottos: “Honi soit qui mal y pense” and “Dieu et mon droit”. These are ‘souvenirs’ of the era when India was a British colony. Just as in post-Independence India there are still some statues of Queen Victoria standing– there is a fine example in Bangalore, these reminders of British imperialism remain attached to the building.

India House: Nehru

India House: Nehru

One side of India House faces India Place, which contains a bust of the Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), who became a barrister at the nearby Inner Temple. Close to a side entrance of India House, there is a monument to an off-duty policeman Jim Morrison, who was stabbed in December 1991 whilst chasing a handbag thief, who has never been caught. A ‘Friendship Tree’ was planted nearby in 1994 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.

Site of former Gaiety Theatre

Site of former Gaiety Theatre

Opposite the Indian building, is the Aldwych Theatre, which was designed by the theatre architect W Sprague (1863-1933), and opened in 1905. For two decades during the 20th century after WW2, this was the London stage of Stratford on Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Company. In my childhood, my parents took me to see many plays there. Where the western branch of the Aldwych meets the Strand, there is a plaque on a characterless new building (the ME Building, a hotel), which marks the site of the former Gaiety Theatre, a music hall that was demolished in 1956.

Lyceum Theatre

Lyceum Theatre

Returning to the north pavement of the Strand, the grand portico of the Lyceum Theatre on Wellington Street, which is supported on six fluted columns with Corinthian capitals, is difficult to miss from the Strand. The façade bears the date 1834, is the date when this incarnation of the establishment opened. It was built to replace an earlier version that was built in the 18th century. For many years from 1871, the great actor Henry Irving (1838-1905) appeared on its stage.

Lyceum Tavern Strand

Lyceum Tavern Strand

Lyceum Tavern courtyard

Lyceum Tavern courtyard

The façade of the Lyceum Tavern as a barrel mounted with a clock mounted at its second-floor level. This pub stands on the site of the original Lyceum Theatre (before it was destroyed by fire in 1830; see: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/LyceumTheatre.htm). The pub, which was first established in the 1830s, has a small courtyard surrounded by high walls, where customers can sit and drink.

Joe Allen

Joe Allen

Joe Allen, an American restaurant (a ‘sister’ to that established in New York City in 1965) that first opened in London in 1977, has its entrance close to the Strand on Burleigh Street (having moved there from its old premises in Exeter Street). Situated on the edge of ‘Theatre Land’, it is a place where you might, if you are lucky, be dining next to some famous star of screen or stage.

Lumley Court and stairs of Vaudeville Theatre

Lumley Court and stairs of Vaudeville Theatre

Bull Inn Court and the Nell Gwynne

Bull Inn Court and the Nell Gwynne

Bull Inn Court and the Nell Gwynne

Bull Inn Court and the Nell Gwynne

Bull Inn Court

Bull Inn Court


Lumley Court is one of several narrow alleys leading north from the Strand. This one, which existed in the 16th century, leads along the east side of the Vaudeville Theatre (see above). Further west, there is Bull Inn Court, named after a pub that used to exist there. This leads past some colourful wall tiles marking the gallery entrance of the Adelphi Theatre. Just beyond the theatre entrance, stands the Nell Gwynne Tavern, a pub named after the famous mistress of King Charles II. Nell Gwynne (1650-1687) might have been born close to the pub, but this is uncertain. The present pub was built in the 17th or 18th century, and has a 19th century façade.

Heathcock Court

Heathcock Court

Just west of Bull Inn Court, Gatti House, with its pink granite pillars, stands on the Strand next to the Adelphi Theatre. A plaque records that this was the site of the Adelphi Theatre Restaurant, which was run by the Swiss-Italian Gatti family, who were restaurateurs and suppliers of electrical and other requirements needed in theatres and music halls. One of the family, Sir John, was Lord Mayor of Westminster (1911-12). West of this, is the narrow Heathcock Court lined with semi-circular pilasters, and often closed to the public. Its name, which is that of a type of bird, related to a pub that existed in the 18th century but has long since disappeared. The alley is recorded by John Stow (c.1525-1605) in his detailed survey of London published in 1598.

The Strand seen from Exchange Court

The Strand seen from Exchange Court

Exchange Court

Exchange Court

The covered tiled narrow passage at the Strand end of Exchange Court, which is Named after the ‘New Exchange’ that used to exist on the south side of the Strand (see: https://knowyourlondon.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/exchange-court-strand/), leads to a slightly wider uncovered lane. On the west side of this lane, there is a house whose entrance is flanked by a pair of pillars topped with Ionic capitals. It has a bow window and a small front yard, which is overlooked by a small clock. This building used to be the premises of the Corps of Commissionaires. Founded in 1859 by Captain Edward Walter (1823-1904; see: https://www.corpssecurity.co.uk/), this was one of the world’s first security firms, supplying doormen to banks and so on. Now, the building is residential.

South Africa Hse

South Africa Hse

South Africa Hse

South Africa Hse

Moving west along the Strand past streets leading north into the Covent Garden area and Zimbabwe House, we reach South Africa House that occupies a corner plot overlooking Trafalgar Square (its development began in the late 1820s) at the western end of the Strand. This building, festooned with sculptures of animals liable to be found roaming about in South Africa, bears heraldic crests that hark back to before the beginning of apartheid proudly sports the Afrikaans words “Suid Afrika”.

South Africa Hse

South Africa Hse

South Africa Hse

South Africa Hse

Some wood-framed windows with shutters overlook Trafalgar Square. Their style is that of the older Dutch buildings found especially in the Cape. The building was designed by Herbert Baker (see above) and completed in 1935. A golden springbok appears to be leaping from its south-western corner.

South Africa Hse

South Africa Hse

For many years during the era of apartheid, protestors against this system of racial oppression used to gather outside South Africa House. One of my father’s relatives, David Kitson (1919-2010), a Communist in South Africa, was a bomb instructor for the banned African National Congress. During the twenty-odd years he spent in a South African jail, his wife Norma (1933-2002), who died a hero in Zimbabwe, often stood protesting outside South Africa House as part of a London-based anti-apartheid group she founded.

Grand House

Grand House

Grand Buildings stands on the corner of the Strand and Northumberland Avenue (which runs through land that was once occupied by a palace that was built for the Earl of Northampton in the early 17th century, and demolished in 1874). Years ago, I recall that there was a marker on the front of this building from which all distances from London were measured, but it is no longer there (see below). Built in 1879, designed by F & H Francis (1818-96, and 1821-94, respectively), this large edifice with an almost oval facade used to be the ‘Grand Hotel’. It has been extensively modernised, but is no longer a hotel.

Charles I monument

Charles I monument

The last item in this exploration is an equestrian statue a few yards west of the Strand at the north end of Whitehall. Standing beneath the gaze of Nelson on his column, this depicts King Charles I (1600-49). Sculpted by Hubert Le Sueur (c. 1580-1658), the bronze statue was cast in 1633. After the Civil War, which cost the king his head, the statue was hidden for several years, and then re-erected in its original location in 1675. The carved stone plinth is by Joshua Marshall (c.1629-1678). The statue stands where it was originally placed, on land which was once part of the Royal mews (marked on a 1775 map as “The King’s Mews” in the position now occupied by Trafalgar Square) belonging to Westminster Palace. The position of the statue is almost the same as the original location of the Eleanor Cross, which was relocated to its present site at Charing Cross Station (see above). At the foot of King Charles’s monument, there is a plaque set into the pavement marking the place where mileage distances from London are officially measured.

There are many roads to be crossed around Trafalgar Square. Be careful only to cross when the green pedestrian signal is showing. At present (2017), the green signals around the square do not always show the usual ‘green man’. Instead, some of them show two children holding hands, and others, wishing to avoid gender preferences, show the symbols for male and female intertwined.

Strolling along the Strand can be an evocative experience, as many of today’s sights reflect, either in substance or merely in their names, the rich history associated with this lively thoroughfare. As the music hall song by Harry Castling & CW Murphy goes:

Let’s all go down the Strand
Let’s all go down the Strand
I'll be leader you can march behind
Come with me and see what we can find
Let’s all go down the Strand
That's the place for fun and noise
All among the girls and boys
So let's all go down the Strand
.”

Green pedestrian light Trafalgar Sq

Green pedestrian light Trafalgar Sq

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:56 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged hotels london alleyways england pubs alleys strand theatres royalty Comments (4)

THE KING OF THE ZULUS STAYED HERE

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

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

Melbury Road: Tower House: gargoyle

Melbury Road: Tower House: gargoyle

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

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

Mosaic by Fox schoolkids Church Str Kensington

Mosaic by Fox schoolkids Church Str Kensington

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

Clementi lived here Kensington Church Str

Clementi lived here Kensington Church Str

Churchill Arms Kensington Church Str

Churchill Arms Kensington Church Str

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

Berkely Gardens

Berkely Gardens

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

Campden House Close

Campden House Close

Sibelius in Gloucester Walk Kensington

Sibelius in Gloucester Walk Kensington

Corner Hornton Str and Holland Str

Corner Hornton Str and Holland Str

Charles Stanford lived here Holland Str

Charles Stanford lived here Holland Str

Corner Hornton and Holland Streets

Corner Hornton and Holland Streets

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

Drayson Mews

Drayson Mews

Elephant and Castle Holland Street

Elephant and Castle Holland Street

Gordon Place

Gordon Place

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

Old houses, number 12 Holland Street

Old houses, number 12 Holland Street

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

Carmel Court

Carmel Court

Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

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

The former Catherine Wheel pub on Kensington Church Street

The former Catherine Wheel pub on Kensington Church Street

St Mary Abbots

St Mary Abbots

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

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

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots Gardens

St Mary Abbots Gardens

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

Former public library Ken High Str

Former public library Ken High Str

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

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

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

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

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

Kensington Square Gardens

Kensington Square Gardens

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

Edward Burne Jones lived in Kensington Sq

Edward Burne Jones lived in Kensington Sq

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

11 and 12 Kensington Square

11 and 12 Kensington Square

11 Kensington Sq Mazarin Herring and Talleyrand might have lived here

11 Kensington Sq Mazarin Herring and Talleyrand might have lived here

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

Kensington Court Mews

Kensington Court Mews

TS Eliot lived here

TS Eliot lived here

Joan Sims lived here on Thackeray Street

Joan Sims lived here on Thackeray Street

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

John Stuart Mills 18 Kensington Sq

John Stuart Mills 18 Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Heythrop College Kensington Sq

Heythrop College Kensington Sq

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

Kensington Sq West side

Kensington Sq West side

30 Kensington Sq Hoare's House

30 Kensington Sq Hoare's House

Hoare's arms on 30 Kensington Square

Hoare's arms on 30 Kensington Square

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

33 Kensington Sq Mrs Patrick Campbell lived here

33 Kensington Sq Mrs Patrick Campbell lived here

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

High Street Ken Station

High Street Ken Station

Cafe Nero Wrights Lane

Cafe Nero Wrights Lane

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

St Sarkis Iverna Gdns

St Sarkis Iverna Gdns

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

Our Lady of Victories

Our Lady of Victories

Our Lady of Victories

Our Lady of Victories

Mosaics outside  Our Lady of Victories

Mosaics outside Our Lady of Victories

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

Old Odeon cinema High Str Ken

Old Odeon cinema High Str Ken

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

Edwardes Square east side

Edwardes Square east side

Scarsdale Tavern Edwardes Sq

Scarsdale Tavern Edwardes Sq

Edwardes Sq Sir William Rothenstein lived here

Edwardes Sq Sir William Rothenstein lived here

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

The Grecian Temple Edwardes Sq

The Grecian Temple Edwardes Sq

Edwardes Square Studios

Edwardes Square Studios

Edwardes Sq West side

Edwardes Sq West side

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

Iranian shops and restaurant Hig Str Ken

Iranian shops and restaurant Hig Str Ken

2 St Mary Abbots Place

2 St Mary Abbots Place

9 St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge

9 St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge

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

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

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

St Mary Abbots Place

St Mary Abbots Place

GK Chesterton lived on Warwick Gardens

GK Chesterton lived on Warwick Gardens

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

Column on Warwick Gdns

Column on Warwick Gdns

Column on Warwick Gdns

Column on Warwick Gdns

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

47 Addison Road

47 Addison Road

Olympia from Napier Road

Olympia from Napier Road

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

49 Addison Rd

49 Addison Rd

49 Addison Rd.  W14 Crest of Herbert Schmalz

49 Addison Rd. W14 Crest of Herbert Schmalz

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

St Barnabas Addison Road

St Barnabas Addison Road

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

Sir Hamo Thornycroft lived here in Melbury Rd

Sir Hamo Thornycroft lived here in Melbury Rd

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

8 Melbury Rd

8 Melbury Rd

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

Tower House Melbury Road

Tower House Melbury Road

Tower HouseMelbury Road

Tower HouseMelbury Road

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

Stavordale Lodge Melbury Rd

Stavordale Lodge Melbury Rd

31 Melbury Rd. Sir Luke Fildes lived here

31 Melbury Rd. Sir Luke Fildes lived here

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

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

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

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

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

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

47 Melbury Rd

47 Melbury Rd

Robertson Clan crest 47 Melbury Rd

Robertson Clan crest 47 Melbury Rd

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

South House Holland Park Rd

South House Holland Park Rd

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

Leighton House

Leighton House

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

Leighton House

Leighton House

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

Leighton House

Leighton House

Leighton House

Leighton House

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

14 Holland Park Rd

14 Holland Park Rd

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

Phil May lived at 20 Holland Park Road

Phil May lived at 20 Holland Park Road

Court House Holland Park Road

Court House Holland Park Road

Holland Park Road west of number 30

Holland Park Road west of number 30

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

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

Design Museum

Design Museum

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

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Paolozzi at Design Museum

Paolozzi at Design Museum

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

Holland Park gates Ken High Str

Holland Park gates Ken High Str

Trafalgar Way notice Ken High Str

Trafalgar Way notice Ken High Str

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

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

Leighton House

Leighton House

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

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