Adam Yamey's Blog

July 10, 2017

Ruislip and Pinner have been almost engulfed in the tide of London's suburbia that began advancing in the early 20th century, but they retain some remarkable features of their rural past. They are connected by the River Pinn.

Entrance to Pinner Memorial Park

Entrance to Pinner Memorial Park

I had never been on the Metropolitan Line further north of Wembley Park until this year (2017). In the early 1960s, when I was at the Hall School in Swiss Cottage, we made occasional trips to a sports field (not Wembley Stadium!) close to Wembley Park Station. For many decades, I felt the need to travel further out of London on the Metropolitan to see places to which it led. So, on a very hot July day, I travelled to Pinner Station. My aim was to follow the River Pinn as far as Ruislip, which is also on a branch of the line. This essay describes what I saw on my walk between the two stations located on separate branches of the Metropolitan Line.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, both Pinner and Ruislip were small country places in Middlesex, quite separate from London and not part of ‘suburbia’. Ruislip was connected to the Metropolitan Line (Uxbridge branch) in 1904, and to the Piccadilly Line in the early 1930s.

Ruislip Station looking east

Ruislip Station looking east

Pinner’s station opened in 1885. Unlike other companies building railway lines, which were to become incorporated into London’s Underground system, the Metropolitan was not required to give up land surplus to its requirements (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro-land). This excess land could then be offered to developers for building purposes. In 1915, the Metropolitan coined the term ‘Metro-land’, and produced booklets with this name. These aimed to associate in peoples’ minds rustic pleasures of the countryside with suburban living, and thereby encourage folk to move out of inner London to inhabit the remoter places served by the railway. As John Betjeman (1906-1984) put it in his poem “Middlesex”:

“Gaily into Ruislip Gardens
Runs the red electric train,
With a thousand Ta’s and Pardon’s
Daintily alights Elaine;
Hurries down the concrete station
With a frown of concentration,
Out into the outskirt’s edges
Where a few surviving hedges
Keep alive our lost Elysium – rural Middlesex again.”

In another of his poems, “Baker St Station Buffet”, he summarises Metroland’s promises of idyllic life in rural suburbia perfectly:

“And sepia views of leafy lanes in Pinner –
Then visualize, far down the shining lines,
Your parents’ homestead set in murmuring pines.”

Metro-land’s success was responsible for converting out of the way places, difficult to access before the advent of the Metropolitan Railway, from quaint rural settlements to sprawling London suburbs. Fortunately, the results were not totally disastrous, not a complete obliteration of London’s countryside. I saw that even though both Pinner and Ruislip have grown significantly, parts of rural Middlesex near them have escaped urbanisation, and remain as rural spots where Londoners may enjoy the countryside without having to move beyond the city’s boundaries.

When my train reached Harrow-on-the-Hill station, the view from the train window was disappointing. The station is away from the picturesque part of Harrow, upon its hill. Instead, it is in the heart of an urbanised area that reminded me of central Croydon: badly-designed office blocks, supermarkets and shabby car-parks. From Pinner station’s platform, I had no idea of what delights were just around the corner from it.

Pinner High Street

Pinner High Street

I had travelled from Baker Street to Pinner, where I began a walk that lasted several hours, all of which was delightful despite the intense heat. I decided to follow part of the ‘Celandine Route’, which follows the River Pinn as closely as possible. The River Pinn rises near Hatch End, and then flows in a generally south-westerly direction, passing through Pinner and Ruislip, before merging with Fray’s River just west of Yiewsley. Fray’s River is a tributary of the River Colne, which flows into the Thames at Staines.

On Pinner High Street

On Pinner High Street

Pinner’s name first appeared in records in 1231, where it is noted as ‘Pinnora’. This is derived from two words: ‘Pynn’ (meaning unknown, but might be a Saxon first name; the River Pinn gets its name from this) and ‘ora’ (Old English for ‘river bank’). Its High Street is so well-preserved that it is easy to imagine what the village was like long before the arrival of the Metropolitan Railway. It slopes gently upwards towards the Church of St John the Baptist. Although some of the buildings along the street are newish (post-Victorian), many of them are old, and well-preserved. At number 6, the current occupier of an old building, half-timbered, bearing the date 1580 (although it might have been modified since then), which used to house the ‘Victory’ pub, is a branch of the Zizzy’s restaurant chain.

32 Pinner High Street

32 Pinner High Street

Number 32 is an elegant red-brick house with a centrally placed pediment on its classical façade. It is currently the premises of EM Collins & Co, and was built in 1763 by its then owner the brickmaker William Bodimeade (see: https://www.harrow.gov.uk/www2/mgConv...). Its neighbour, number 34, is one of several 16th century buildings in the High Street. Across the road from these buildings, there is an early 16th century building that now houses the Friends Restaurant.

Queens Head Pinner High Str

Queens Head Pinner High Str

For almost 100 years until 1915, this house had been home to three successive Parish Clerks. Up the hill from this, stands The Queen’s Head, also in a 16th century building. It has been an inn since 1635. A notice on the pub suggests that there was a pub on this spot as early as 1540, and conjectures that there was one there since the 14th century. The beam (carrying a sign) and post projecting over the pavement have been present since before 1820.

Pinner High Str War Memorial

Pinner High Str War Memorial

With these and so many other equally old buildings, it is unsurprising that the High Street was designated a Conservation Area under the Civic Amenities Act of 1967. A drearily designed WW1 memorial stands just at the top of the High Street beneath the church, whose tall flint covered tower dominates the short street.

St John the Baptist Pinner

St John the Baptist Pinner

The existing St John the Baptist Church was dedicated in 1321. Its tower and some other features were added in the 15th century. Its pleasant gothic interior contains a stone font with an elaborately crafted wooden cover, and memorials including one to Trooper Edward Russell Apps, who died aged 21 in May 1900 at Bamboo Creek (now ‘Nhamatanda’ in Mozambique) in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War. The monument to this young bank clerk, who worked for Glynn Mills & Co, was erected by his fellow parishioners because he had volunteered “… for active service in a time of national emergency … for Queen and Country”.

St John the Baptist Pinner

St John the Baptist Pinner

Born in Moscow, St John the Baptist Pinner

Born in Moscow, St John the Baptist Pinner

Font in St John the Baptist Pinner

Font in St John the Baptist Pinner

Another monument, which caught my eye and roused my curiosity, was that commemorating the Reverend Charles Edward Grenside, Vicar of Pinner from 1886 to 1910. What interested me was that he was born in Moscow (Russia) in 1849. When he entered this world, his father Christopher Grenside (1837-1885) was British Chaplain in Moscow, a post that he held from 1847-1853, having previously held that position in Archangelsk from 1843. Charles died in Kensington in 1933.

Pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

Pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

Detail of pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

Detail of pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

There is a small graveyard outside the church. This contains a huge grey stone pyramid with two small (apparently empty) sarcophagi stuck near its apex. This peculiar monument was designed by John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843), the Scottish-born botanist, garden- and cemetery- designer. It was erected to honour his parents.

Bridge over the Pinn east of Bridge Street

Bridge over the Pinn east of Bridge Street

We catch our first glimpse of the Pinn from a small bridge with cast-iron railings behind some shops on Bridge Street at its southern end. This street, in contrast to the High Street, looks like most north London suburban shopping areas.

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

Nearby, in Love Lane there stands the Roman Catholic Church of St Luke. Although built between 1957 and 1958 (to the designs of Francis Xavier Velarde: 1879-1960), this unfussy brick construction with its airy interior retains a remarkably contemporary feel (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listin...).

Pinn River looking west from Bridge Street Pinner

Pinn River looking west from Bridge Street Pinner

Bridge Street crosses the wide but shallow Pinn, which flows under a wooden bridge connecting two parts of a small park with a few benches. Chapel Lane leads off Bridge Street and heads towards the larger Pinner Memorial Park. Before reaching it, the lane passes Chapel Lane Chambers. These were built in the 1840s, and greatly enlarged during the last century.

Chapel Lane Chambers Pinner

Chapel Lane Chambers Pinner

Pinner Memorial Park was set up in the grounds of West House on land bought by the people of Pinner in order to honour the dead of the two world wars. There has been a house on the site for over 500 years.

Pinner Memorial Park: New Heath Robinson Museum and old West House

Pinner Memorial Park: New Heath Robinson Museum and old West House

West House was once the home of Nelson Ward (1828-1917), a grandson of Admiral Horatio Nelson. His mother, Horatia (1801-1881) was the illegitimate daughter of the Admiral and Emma Hamilton. Horatia was conceived on board the “Foudroyant” during a cruise in the Mediterranean on which Emma’s husband was also a passenger (see: “The Pursuit of Victory…” by R Knight, publ. 2005). She married the Reverend Phillip Ward (1795-1859), and Nelson Ward was their fifth-born of ten children. He became a Registrar in the Court of Chancery.

Pinner Memorial Park aviary

Pinner Memorial Park aviary

Lake at Pinner Memorial Park

Lake at Pinner Memorial Park

Little remains of Ward’s West House. It is now joined to new buildings including a café and a small museum dedicated to the memory of the inventive cartoonist W Heath Robinson (1872-1944; he lived in Pinner from 1908). The complex of buildings overlooks a lake which contains one tiny island and a small fountain. It is also close to a small aviary containing colourful budgerigars. Dotted around the park, there are several attractive carved wooden sculptures.

Pinner Memorial Park sculpture

Pinner Memorial Park sculpture

Pinner Memorial Park dog cemetery

Pinner Memorial Park dog cemetery

To the west of the car park outside West House near to West End Road, a group of five small, tilting, gravestones with mainly illegible inscriptions stand in a circle. One of them marks the final resting place of ‘Effie’, who died aged ten years in 1903. These are all that remain of a Victorian dog cemetery. If you wish to see a larger and better-preserved dog/pet cemetery, you need to visit the one near Victoria Gate on Bayswater Road (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/new...).

Rose Cottage in West End Lane Pinner

Rose Cottage in West End Lane Pinner

South along the West End Lane with its well-spaced twentieth century houses and gardens – a better part of ‘Metro-land’ that approaches its ideal, Rose Cottage stands, contrasting with its neighbours. It was built in the 1850s when West End was a hamlet separate from Pinner. Further south at the corner of West End Lane and Lloyd Court, there is a bridge over the Pinn. Its waters flow beneath this and then north-westwards through some private gardens to Cranbourne Drive, from where a footpath leads between the stream and some allotment gardens before entering a densely wooded area. The path follows the meandering Pinn through the woods before reaching a broad meadow, which has been preserved for nature conservation reasons.

River Pinn and Celandine Route path near Cranbourne Drive

River Pinn and Celandine Route path near Cranbourne Drive

Celandine Route signs near Cheney Street

Celandine Route signs near Cheney Street

Meadow near Cheney Street

Meadow near Cheney Street

No ashes! near Cheney Street

No ashes! near Cheney Street

At Cheney Street, which crosses the Pinn over a small bridge, I spotted a sign that pleaded with people not to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in the woods and green open spaces. Apparently, the ashes of cremated bodies contain high concentrations of minerals that are deleterious to the plants, which made the place so pleasant for the deceased before they died. The Celandine Route path continues to follow the Pinn, which winds through a corridor of grassland, wild flowers, and trees.

An inlet of the Pinn near Eastcote House

An inlet of the Pinn near Eastcote House

Sheila Liberty Bridge near Eastcote

Sheila Liberty Bridge near Eastcote

After a while, the path, which had been heading westwards, turns southwards and crosses the Pinn over a wooden bridge. This bridge, the Sheila Liberty Bridge (named in honour of a local community leader and conservationist, Sheila Liberty: 1937-2010; see: http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/l...) leads into the grounds of the former Eastcote House.

Walled garden and dovecote at Eastcote

Walled garden and dovecote at Eastcote

Eastcote House stood on a site, where there had been a dwelling since at least 1507. “About the year 1525 Ralph Hawtrey left his parents’ home at Chequers in Buckinghamshire, now the country house of the Prime Ministers of this country, and settled in Eastcote” (see: http://www.eastcoteparkestate.org.uk/...). The Hawtrey family built a house, which dated back to the 16th century. This fell into neglect, and was demolished(!) in the 1960s. Although, it is not possible to visit the house, we are indebted to the 1936 inspection by the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England, which reported:
“… the considerable amount of moulded wooden panelling and the fine main early 18th century staircase with its twisted ‘barley-stick’ moulded balusters. One of the ground floor rooms with extensive panelling was known as the Cromwell Room because of an unsubstantiated story that Oliver Cromwell had stayed at the house” (see: http://eastcotehousegardens.weebly.co...).

Inside the Dovecot at Eastcote

Inside the Dovecot at Eastcote

Fortunately, some buildings of the Eastcote House estate remain intact, and open for visitors to examine. The tall, square-based dovecot, which replaces one built in the 16th century, was constructed in the 18th century. Inside, a brickwork structure of (literally) pigeon-holes climbs up the tall walls, and were accessed by ladders. At this point, I will quote extensively from a source already mentioned (http://www.eastcoteparkestate.org.uk/...
“Until the development in the 18th century of root crops, winter feed for cattle was scarce and as a result only breeding pairs could be kept and the rest were slaughtered and salted down. It was soon realised that the fresh meat deficiency could be made good in some measure by the keeping of pigeons and this led to the building of dovecotes some of which date from an early age … The building of dovecotes was heavily restricted and normally only permitted to the lord of the manor. One of the early Hawtreys built himself a dovecote at Eastcote House without permission but, presumably because of his standing with Kings College Cambridge, the lords of the manor at that time, he was forgiven and a licence for the building was granted in 1601.”

Walled garden at Eastcote

Walled garden at Eastcote

The dovecote stands at one corner of a walled garden. Its walls were probably built in the 17th century, and repaired frequently since then. It contains many thin red bricks typical of those made during the Tudor period (i.e. late 15th century and most of the 16th). The garden within the walls is beautifully maintained and is laid out attractively. Close to the garden, there is one more building that has escaped demolition. This is the well-restored brick and timber coach house or stables. It can be dated back to the early 17th century. Now, it is used for both community functions and for private hire. It can hold up to fifty people.

The coach house at Eastcote

The coach house at Eastcote

Flint foundations at an archaeological dig at Eastcote House

Flint foundations at an archaeological dig at Eastcote House

When I crossed the Pinn into the grounds of Eastcote House, the first thing that I noticed was an area fenced off for archaeologists. They had unearthed the flint-based foundations of what had once been a timber-framed building. The friendly archaeologist supervising the dig told me that each year, he and his volunteers dig up different parts of the estate where they expect to find remains, and then after recording their finds they replace the turfs.

River Pinn bridge at Fore Street

River Pinn bridge at Fore Street

Pretty Corner today

Pretty Corner today

A chatty man, who was taking five dogs for a walk, led me from Eastcote House back to the Pinn, where it flowed in a narrow, wooded corridor sandwiched between Eastcote High Road and Mount Park Road. At Fore Street, a substantial brick and stone bridge carries the road over the river. A short distance south of the bridge, where Fore Street meets the High Road, we reach the appropriately named Pretty Corner, which is now a triangular patch of grass. Until the 1930s when the grass was laid, there was a small pond, ‘Guts Pond’ on this site and Fore Street was then called by its 19th century name ‘Frog Lane’.

Pretty Corner before the pond disappeared

Pretty Corner before the pond disappeared

A half-timbered building is visible from Pretty Corner. This is ‘New Cottages’ built in 1879 to the designs of Sir Ernest George (1839-1922; he designed the current Southwark Bridge) and his business partner Harold Ainworth Peto (1854-1933; a well-known garden designer as well as an architect), whose father was a tenant at the now demolished Eastcote House.

Bridge over Pinn at Elmbridge Drive

Bridge over Pinn at Elmbridge Drive

Pinn Meadows

Pinn Meadows

After crossing Fore Street, I followed the Pinn to Elmbridge Road, which crosses the river by a white stone (or concrete) bridge. The river then flows westwards through a wide open-space, mostly grass-covered but punctuated by lines of trees that probably follow old field boundaries. The open space is called ‘Pinn Meadows’. It is all that remains of the home farm (‘demesne’) of the historic estate of Ruislip, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. After 1087, the lands became owned by the Benedictine abbey of Bec in Normandy. In the 15th century, the lands were handed over to the newly established Kings College in Cambridge, which still holds much land in London today.

Skating place at Kings College Playing Fields

Skating place at Kings College Playing Fields

Another bridge carries Kings College Road across the Pinn, which then flows south of Kings College Playing Fields. Close to the road and lying between a race-track and the river, there is a rectangular concrete structure with a complexly curved surface – an interesting sculptural form. This is the ‘King’s College Skatepark’ for skate-boarders.

Park Ave Hillingdon, architects: Connell and Ward

Park Ave Hillingdon, architects: Connell and Ward

North of the racetrack, there are three neighbouring white painted buildings with a design that reminded me of architecture inspired by the pre-WW2 Bauhaus in Germany. They were built between 1935 and 1938 to designs by Amyas Connell (1901-1980), Basil Ward (1902-1976), and Colin Lucas (1906-1984). It is lucky that they were ever constructed because “The original plans were strongly contested by the Ruislip and Northwood planning authority, but eventually passed…” (see: http://www.modernism-in-metroland.co....). Surrounded by brick houses of the type that populate most of London’s extensive, mostly architecturally unexciting, suburbia, spotting these exceptional houses was a pleasant surprise for me.

PINN 4p River Pinn with depth gauge at St Martins Approach near Ruislip

PINN 4p River Pinn with depth gauge at St Martins Approach near Ruislip

Where the bridge that carries St Martins Approach crosses over the Pinn, the river appeared to be very narrow or clogged with weeds. The presence of a flood gauge near the bridge suggests that the Pinn does occasionally increase in depth. For example, in December 2012, flood warnings were issued for places along the Pinn including Pinner and Ruislip (see: Evening Standard, 20th December 2012). But, that was difficult to imagine when I saw the river on a sweltering July afternoon.

Farm House at Manor Farm Ruislip

Farm House at Manor Farm Ruislip

Leaving the Pinn and the Celandine Route footpath that follows it, I crossed Pinn Way, and then entered Ruislip’s Manor Farm. The former farm and its buildings were ranged around the site of a small motte and bailey castle of the type imported by the Normans. The one at Manor Farm was built just after the Norman conquest.

Manor Farm Ruislip the barely discernible bailey of the old fort

Manor Farm Ruislip the barely discernible bailey of the old fort

With a little imagination and the knowledge, provided by informative notices, that the castle once existed, one can just make out two separate low grassy mounds that are all that remain of the motte and its associated bailey. Raised above the surrounding terrain, the former castle would have commanded a good view of the River Pinn.

The half-timbered and brick building that stands to the east of where the motte met the bailey is Manor Farm House. This was built in the 16th century, probably on the site of an earlier house built by the prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec (see above), which owned the land on which the farm stood until it was taken over by the Cambridge college. It houses a small museum, which I was unable to enter because on the day I visited it, it was being used to hold music examinations.

Manor Farm Ruislip Winston Churchill Theatre

Manor Farm Ruislip Winston Churchill Theatre

Close to the farm house, but west of the former castle, stands the Winston Churchill Theatre. Built in the 1960s, this building’s external appearance is unremarkable, even boring. I have not entered it, but photographs of its interior, which I have seen on various websites, make it seem far more attractive than its exterior. It can seat almost 350 people in its flexible-use auditorium. It was designed by the firm of Mackenzie Wheeler.

i Manor Farm Ruislip: public library inside Little Barn

i Manor Farm Ruislip: public library inside Little Barn

Just south of the theatre, there is an exciting ensemble of buildings. These include the Manor Farm Library, which is housed in the former Little Barn. This 16th century building was converted into a public library in 1937. Most of the reading room is under the superb hammer beam ceiling that can be easily seen above the suspended clusters of neon tube lamps.

Manor Farm Ruislip: the Great Barn

Manor Farm Ruislip: the Great Barn

The Little Barn is at right angles to the Great Barn, which lives up to its name both in size and historical interest. Under one vast roof, this huge wooden barn measuring 120 by 32 feet and reaching a height of over 15 feet, was built of oak in about 1280. The outside of the barn is weather-boarded, and its roof is tiled. Built to store the crops and other products of the farm, it is, according to a notice beside it, “…is the oldest timber-framed barn in Greater London.”

I tried entering this barn, inside which there were noises of people working, but all of its doors were locked. The librarian in the neighbouring former barn told me that it was only ever opened to the public for special events. As I left the library, a little despondent, I noticed a workman leaving the Great Barn. I asked him if I could take a look inside it, and he said: “feel free, I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”

Manor Farm Ruislip: In the Great Barn

Manor Farm Ruislip: In the Great Barn

I am very grateful that this kind man let me see inside the barn. Its hammer beam roof is a remarkable feat of hand-crafted engineering. Although not as ornate as, for example, the one contracted much later at Middle Temple Hall, its scale and complexity are awe-inspiring.

Manor Farm Ruislip pond

Manor Farm Ruislip pond

A few yards south of the barns, there is a village pond surrounded by bushes and some weeping willows. An 1896 map shows that there was a blacksmith’s house by the western shore of the pond and a post office by its southern shore. The quaint brick building that was once the post office now houses a branch of the Prezzo restaurant chain.

Former Ruislip post office in Bury Street

Former Ruislip post office in Bury Street

Ruislip War Memorial

Ruislip War Memorial

A war memorial in the form of a white stone cross bearing Christ crucified stands a few steps east of the pond. This was unveiled in 1921, and now commemorates the dead of two world wars (see: https://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/article...). Facing the monument across Eastcote Road, there is a terrace of cottages made in brick with half-timbering.

Former almshouses Bury Street Ruislip

Former almshouses Bury Street Ruislip

These were formerly alms-houses, built in the 16th century (built 1570; see: https://historicengland.org.uk/servic...), but now converted into flats controlled by a housing trust. They back onto the older part of the cemetery surrounding St Martin’s Church. Along with a couple of pubs, ‘The Swan’ and ‘The George Inn’, there was little more to Ruislip village in 1896 than what I have described in the last few lines. Before the advent of the Metropolitan Line, this tiny village was the whole of Ruislip. Ruislip station opened in 1904. A 1914 map shows that then there was hardly any building between the village and the railway station. A map published in 1936 shows that not only was the High Street almost completely lined with buildings between the church and the station, but also the surrounding terrain, which had been fields in 1914, was nowmostly covered with built-up suburban streets. Ruislip had become absorbed into ‘Metro-land’. Miraculously, the old village centre of Ruislip has maintained something of its pre-Metropolitan Line character.

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip Seven deadly sins

St Martins Ruislip Seven deadly sins

St Martins Ruislip frescos

St Martins Ruislip frescos

Ruislip’s Parish Church of St Martin is built in flint and stone. Its construction began in the 13th century, but much of its fabric dates from the 15th and early 16th centuries. The pillars supporting the nave are from the earliest construction era. Above them, the walls that they support display some barely visible frescoes. One of these wall paintings, which is in better condition than the others, depicts the Seven Deadly Sins. The 15th century chancel has a hammer beam roof, whereas the nave is covered with an almost semi-circular barrel-vaulted wooden ceiling.

St Martins Ruislip Norman font

St Martins Ruislip Norman font

There was a flower show in progress when I visited the church. There were lovely flower arrangements everywhere, even around the Norman stone font. Refreshments were being served in the bell-ringers room at the base of the square bell-tower. This room contains a lovely group of six framed hatchments, each one bearing the coat-of arms of someone who died in the area.

St Martins Ruislip hatchments in the bell tower

St Martins Ruislip hatchments in the bell tower

St Martins Ruislip Hawtree family monument

St Martins Ruislip Hawtree family monument

In the chancel on its northern wall, I spotted the Hawtrey family monument, an elaborately carved piece of stonework, sculpted by John and Matthias Christmas (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listin...), containing two male busts and four crests. Matthias, Master Carver of His Majesties Shipyards at Chatham, was about 49 years old when he died in 1654. His son John, also a Master Carver at Chatham, died in 1694, aged 31 (see: “Registrum Roffense, or, A collection of antient records, charters, and instruments of divers kinds : necessary for illustrating the ecclesiastical history and antiquities of the diocese and cathedral church of Rochester”, by J Thorpe and others, published in 1769). The Hawtrey family of Eastcote (see above) farmed the area in the post-mediaeval period. They leased the Ruislip Manor from 1669 until the 19th century.

St Martins Ruislip with pump

St Martins Ruislip with pump

There is an old hand-operated water pump on the High Street. It is separated from the church by a row of old houses set back from the road. One of these at its southern end is marked as a ‘Police Station’ on the 1896 map. The cast-iron pump was originally placed over an artesian well sunk in 1864 near the old post office (now ‘Prezzo’) at the junction of the High Street and Bury Street, in the heart of old Ruislip. It was moved to its present location in 1982.

Ruislip High Str: old Ruislip Park house

Ruislip High Str: old Ruislip Park house

A few yards south of the pump, the old village ends, and modern (i.e. 20th century) Ruislip begins. Just south of the old village, there is a what looks from the street like a flat-roofed building with two rows of sash windows above the modern shopfronts at street level. This mid-Georgian house, once ‘Ruislip Park House’, has been used as a British Legion hall. As the High Street descends towards the station, so does the visual interest of the buildings along it.

Ruislip Station, built 1904

Ruislip Station, built 1904

Before leaving Ruislip, you might be interested to know the derivation of its name. The place appeared in the Domesday Book, named as ‘Riselepe’. This is believed to mean, according to a Wikipedia entry, ‘leaping place on the river where rushes grow’, the river being the Pinn. A historian of Middlesex, Michael Robbins, believed that the name ‘Riselipe’ is derived from the words meaning ‘rushes’ and ‘leap’. In the days of the Domesday book, the area was a hunting park, that is in Latin “parcus est ibi ferarum silvaticarum” (i.e. ‘it is a park where there are wild beasts’). The wild beasts no longer leap amongst the rushes. They have long since departed, and have been replaced by crowds of commuters and their families, who enjoy living in ‘Metro-land’, where (to quote Betjeman once more):

“… a few surviving hedges
Keep alive our lost Elysium – rural
Middlesex again.”

Mero-land: Greenways West End Lane Pinner

Mero-land: Greenways West End Lane Pinner

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Published on July 10, 2017 10:42 • 2 views

July 5, 2017

Many people know that the drink Pimms is a popular thirst-quenching, fruit-filled alcoholic cocktail. It is usually drunk during the British summer. Fewer people know about ‘Pymmes’, which sounds just like the cocktail’s name, but is not remotely related to it.

Cygnet on Pymme Park lake

Cygnet on Pymme Park lake

In 1327, William Pymme built a mansion close to Upper Edmonton (http://friendsofpymmespark.wixsite.co...). It stood in its own extensive grounds, its estate, a few yards east of where Silver Street Station stands today, and just north of the present North Circular Road, where it runs close to Silver Street.

Plaque

Plaque

The original house, which was occupied by various Elizabethan worthies, namely Thomas Wilson (1524-1581), William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (1520-1598) - a close confidante of Queen Elizabeth I, and Sir Robert Cecil (c.1563-1612), was entirely demolished before the beginning of the 19th century (see: “The history and antiquities of the parish of Edmonton” by W Robinson, published 1819). William Cecil bought the Pymmes Estate in 1582, and it remained in his family until 1801. In 1593, the house was either modified or re-built. Then it was re-built in the early 18th century. This was modified by the addition of a new south front with a classical portico later in that century (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/...).

Pymmes walled garden

Pymmes walled garden

In 1808, the Ray family bought the estate and the house on it, and kept it until 1899. Next, the estate was bought by the local council, and in 1906 the grounds were opened as a public park (see: http://friendsofpymmespark.wixsite.co...). In 1940, the house was completely destroyed by aerial bombardment (see: http://lower-edmonton.co.uk/leisure/p...). All that remains of it today is its walled Victorian garden.

view into Pymmes walled garden

view into Pymmes walled garden

Pymme not only ‘gave’ his name to a park (the grounds of the former Pymmes House), but also to Pymmes Brook, a tributary of the River Lea. This stream rises near Hadley Wood where several small streams (e.g. Shirebourne and Green Brook) merge, and then flows mainly in a south-eastern direction until it merges with the Lea. It flows from the south side if Pymmes Park, where it is mainly underground, eastwards, but above-ground, under the Silver Street railway station before disappearing underground on the western side of Fore Street.

Statues inside Pymmes walled garden

Statues inside Pymmes walled garden

The park is lovely. A weed-covered ornamental pond with reed beds is located at the park’s south-western corner, close to the North Circular Road. I watched a moorhen swimming through the waterweeds, parting them like an ice-breaker as it proceeded in a straight line. The Pymme Brook runs under this almost stagnant body of water.

Ornamental Pond in Pymmes Park

Ornamental Pond in Pymmes Park

The walled-garden is rectangular in plan, but was not open to the public when I visited it. This was not a great problem because there are several iron gates and one window through which I could see most of the garden, which is well-maintained. I spotted two antique statues and one bas-relief at the southern end of the garden. A series of paths radiate star-like from the middle of the garden, separating beds planted out with a variety of different species of both flowering plants and shrubs.

Visitors Centre

Visitors Centre

Close to the walled-garden, there is a run-down inelegant building, which bears the sign ‘Visitors Centre’. With broken windows, and locked doors, I doubt that this building has received many visitors in recent times. This presently unwelcoming building started life as a WW2 civil defence centre. It was established as a decontamination centre to be used in the event of a gas attack on the local population (see: https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/11...). Just before, and during, WW2, trenches for military use were dug in Pymmes Park. Also, a searchlight was set-up there (see: https://enfieldatwar.wordpress.com/ta...).

Bridge across lake at Pymmes Park

Bridge across lake at Pymmes Park

North of the Visitors Centre, there is a lovely curving, serpentine lake that runs from east to west. A concrete footbridge crosses this via a small tree-covered island. Surrounded by reeds, trees, and other plants, this picturesque body of water welcomes waterfowl: geese, ducks, moorhens, swans, to name but a few.

Swans on Pymmes Park lake

Swans on Pymmes Park lake

Reeds on Pymmes Park lake

Reeds on Pymmes Park lake

Moorhen family on Pymmes Park lake

Moorhen family on Pymmes Park lake

Flanking the pond, there is a playground for children equipped with up-to-date climbing frames and other equipment. There is a circular area, which might have once served as an open-air performance space, but there is no sign of the bandstand that can be seen in old photographs taken in the park (see: http://lower-edmonton.co.uk/leisure/p...).

Pymme Brook and Silver Street Railway Station

Pymme Brook and Silver Street Railway Station

From the south-east corner of the park near where Silver Street meets Victoria Road, there is a bridge across Pymmes Brook from which the narrow stream may be seen flowing towards, and then under a railway arch.

Pymmes Park lake looking east

Pymmes Park lake looking east

Pymmes Park is one of London’s lesser-known open-spaces, and deserves both more visitors and also a decent visitors’ centre, with a café.

Geese and a pigeon at Pymmes Park

Geese and a pigeon at Pymmes Park

ANYONE FOR PYMMES? remains copyright of the author ADAMYAMEY, a member of the travel community Travellerspoint.

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Published on July 05, 2017 11:05 • 2 views

June 30, 2017

When I was a child living in the Hampstead Garden Suburb, my friends and I used to play beside a rather odd-smelling little stream that flowed near to the Market Place on Falloden Way. In those days, I had no idea that the water in this rivulet, Mutton Brook, eventually flowed into the Thames. This essay describes two parts of one of London’s longer tributaries of the River Thames, the River Brent. The first part deals with Mutton Brook, one of the sources of the Brent. The second explores Brentford, where the River Brent merges with the Thames. I wrote this following a recent visit to Brentford, where my wife was representing clients at the local County Court. While she was in front of the judge, I explored the estuary of the River Brent and its historic surroundings. The following day, I revisited Mutton Brook.

A heron on the Decoy Pond

A heron on the Decoy Pond

The River Brent begins where the waters of Dollis Brook and Mutton Brook merge near Golders Green. Dollis Brook has its sources near Arkley and Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet (see: https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/s...), about nine miles before it converges with Mutton Brook (the name being associated with sheep washing in the past).

Sketch map of the River Brent

Sketch map of the River Brent

Mutton Brook

Mutton Brook

The Brook rises from Cherry Tree Wood (formerly ‘Dirthouse Wood’, a remnant of the historic mediaeval ‘Finchley wood’ that was once well-known for its highwaymen). It is not far from East Finchley Station, which is where my ‘exploration’ begins.

East Finchley Station

East Finchley Station

East Finchley Underground station is above ground. Art-deco in design (architects: Charles Holden and LH Bucknell), this was built in the latter half of the 1930s. A ten-foot-tall sculpture of a kneeling archer, sculpted by Eric Aumonier (1899–1974) overlooks both the platforms and the station’s forecourt. It recalls that East Finchley used to be at the edge of the ancient Royal Forest of Enfield where both royalty and commoners once hunted.

Old White Lion at East Finchley

Old White Lion at East Finchley

The Old White Lion pub on The Great North Road (A1000) next to the station has some interesting eye-shaped features in its roof tiling. These resemble the similarly shaped slits that appear in roofs of old buildings all over central Europe. This pub (in an earlier building) was in existence at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when it was known as the ‘White Lion’. Until 1900, there was a toll-gate on the Great North Road next to the pub.

Belvedere Court

Belvedere Court

The western part of Bishops Avenue, home to many wealthy people, leads to the A1 where it is called ‘Aylmer Road’. Belvedere Court on Aylmer Road is an unmissable brick and stone building with an un-British appearance. This block of flats, built 1937-38, was designed by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s youngest son, the architect Ernst Ludwig Freud (1892-1970). Trained by the architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933), a pioneer of modern architecture, Ernst came to the UK with his father in 1934. At first, the flats in this building were rented mainly to Jewish immigrants fleeing from Nazi-occupied Europe. During his childhood, the TV personality Jerry Springer lived in Belvedere Court.

Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue in Norrice Lea

Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue in Norrice Lea

Norrice Lea leads south from Aylmer Road, and is home to the Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, which has an Orthodox Jewish congregation. The synagogue was designed by Maurice de Metz and completed in 1935 (see: http://www.hgstrust.org/documents/are...). With its elegant main portico, it was consecrated in 1934, and then enlarged far less elegantly in the 1960s (see: http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/Londo...).

View of Hampstead Garden Suburb from playing fields near Norrice Lea

View of Hampstead Garden Suburb from playing fields near Norrice Lea

A narrow pathway leads from Norrice Lea between private gardens into Lyttelton Playing Fields. There is an excellent view across this grassy expanse of the upper parts of Hampstead Garden Suburb with its churches designed by the architect of government buildings in New Delhi, Edwin Lutyens (St Judes with its spire and The Free Church with its dome).

Bridge over Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Bridge over Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Next to a small café, which forms part of a Jewish kindergarten, a short path leads a few feet northwards to a small bridge. It is from this brick-walled bridge that we first catch sight of Mutton Brook. Confined between banks maintained with wooden planking and lined with bushes on both banks, it is no more than about two feet wide at this point.

Houses at Kingsley Way

Houses at Kingsley Way

Bridge at Kingsley Way

Bridge at Kingsley Way

By the time that the Brook reaches the brick and stone bridge which carries Kingsley Way over it, its width has almost doubled. A gauge next to the bridge projects vertically from the water. Its presence is suggestive of the possibility of the brook becoming much deeper during times of heavy rainfall. Near the bridge, there are a few houses with art-deco features, notably their upper storey windows. The water flows under the bridge after passing over a small waterfall (the first of many), and then leaves the bridge via two more step-like waterfalls.

View upstream from bridge at Kingsley Way

View upstream from bridge at Kingsley Way

'Rapids' at Kingsley Way

'Rapids' at Kingsley Way

The Brook flows towards Northway in a stone-lined channel that curves gently through a strip of cultivated parkland. When I was a child, there was a small putting-green in this park, but that has gone. The single-arched bridge carrying Northway over the stream has iron railings.

Between Kingsley Way and Northway

Between Kingsley Way and Northway

Northway Bridge

Northway Bridge

The water flows next through Northway Gardens between almost vertical banks like a groove cut into the lawns. It passes some tennis courts on its left bank, and flows over another low waterfall. The Gardens, which vary in width, are flanked to the north by the back gardens of houses on Falloden Way, the westerly continuation of Aylmer Road. To the south, they are flanked by the gardens of the houses on Oakwood Road.

Falloden Way bridge

Falloden Way bridge

Emerging from the Falloden Way Bridge

Emerging from the Falloden Way Bridge

Mutton Brook curves northwards and then disappears under Falloden Way beneath a bridge with brick walls topped with white stone slabs. It emerges from under the main road in two channels that merge into one. Brooklands Drive crosses the Brook over a bridge made from wood and bricks.

Brooklands Rise bridge

Brooklands Rise bridge

The part of Hampstead Garden Suburb north of Falloden Way, which includes Brooklands Drive, is sometimes called ‘Across the Jordan’ because of its large Jewish population. The stream then flows over another waterfall before before entering a concrete-lined conduit that carries it back under Falloden Way.

Conduit under Falloden Way west

Conduit under Falloden Way west

Between its emergence from under Falloden Way to where Finchley Road crosses it, Mutton Brook winds its way between steeply sloping meadows on its right bank and wooded land on its left bank. Walking beside it, one could imagine that one is in the middle of the countryside if it were not for the sight and muted sounds of traffic flowing along the Falloden Way.

The Brook just after it re crosses the Falloden Way

The Brook just after it re crosses the Falloden Way

Brook near east side of Finchley Road

Brook near east side of Finchley Road

Mutton Brook disappearing under east side of Finchley Road

Mutton Brook disappearing under east side of Finchley Road

At Finchley Road, the Brook flows unceremoniously beneath the roadway near to what used to be known in my childhood as ‘Henlys Corner’. This important junction of Finchley Road and the North Circular Road was so named because between 1935 and 1989 there used to be a branch of the Henlys Motors group of garages on its south-western corner. This has been demolished, and where it stood there is a widened roadway and grass. The junction is sandwiched between the merging of Falloden Way with the North Circular on its eastern side, and between the latter and the Great North Way (A1) on its western side.

La Delivrance

La Delivrance

La Delivrance

La Delivrance

Finchley Road continues across the North Circular Road and becomes ‘Regents Park Road’. A spectacular sculpture depicting a naked lady holding a sword aloft stands on a traffic island immediately north of the Henlys Corner junction. This is the ‘La Délivrance’ statue (aka ‘The Naked Lady’), sculpted by the French artist Emile Guillaume (1867-1942), a pacifist. It is a cast made from the original that was exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1920, where it was seen by the proprietor of the Daily Mail newspaper (and an advocate of appeasement with the Nazis) Viscount Rothermere (1868-1940). Rothermere commissioned the lady who stands looking north with her backside facing the North Circular Road. The statue was unveiled in 1927 by a former prime minister, David Lloyd-George (1863-1945).

Kinloss Schul

Kinloss Schul

Henleys Corner

Henleys Corner

Close to the Naked Lady stands the ‘Kinloss Schul’ also known as ‘Finchley United Synagogue’. It is a striking building with its multiple external vertical reinforced concrete elements. Home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish congregations, capable of accommodating two thousand people, this edifice was completed in 1967 by the architects Dowton and Hurst.

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Mutton Brook continues west of Finchley Road almost parallel to the North Circular Road. It flows through pleasantly rustic parkland, lawns and woods, until it reaches a point where the North Circular Road has begun curving in a south-westerly direction.

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Under the North Circular

Under the North Circular

After passing a fading sign that declares “Polluted Water Keep Out”, both the footpath and the brook pass under the main road in a large diameter concrete-lined tunnel, circular in cross-section. This is surveyed by a cobwebbed CCTV camera. The footpath follows the Brook for about one third of a mile from the tunnel before reaching the last bridge that crosses Mutton Brook. This footbridge with wrought-iron railings crosses the stream a few feet from the point where it joins Dollis Brook at right angles.

Lowest Bridge over Mutton Brook

Lowest Bridge over Mutton Brook

Where Mutton Brook flows into Dollis Brook to form The Brent

Where Mutton Brook flows into Dollis Brook to form The Brent

This almost insignificant meeting of two streams is where the River Brent is deemed officially to begin its passage towards the Thames at Brentford.

Bridge Lane bridge

Bridge Lane bridge

Bridge Lane Bridge

Bridge Lane Bridge

The Brent at Bridge Lane

The Brent at Bridge Lane

A few yards away from its commencement, the River Brent flows under a road bridge with white stone balustrades. This bridge marks the southern end of Bridge Lane, which begins in Temple Fortune, and Bell Lane, which leads towards central Hendon. At this point, the River Brent is many times wider than Mutton Brook was at Lyttelton Playing Fields several miles upstream. After crossing Bridge Lane, another footpath enters Brent Park, which is, like all the green areas that have been described already, maintained by the London Borough of Barnet. The River Brent flows along the northern edge of this strip of parkland, which runs parallel to the North Circular Road until it meets the A40. A more picturesque name for this busy road might be ‘The Brent Valley Highway’.

Brent Park Decoy pond looking east

Brent Park Decoy pond looking east

Brent Park bench with Barnet crest

Brent Park bench with Barnet crest

Brent Park, which was opened to the public in 1934, contains a piece of water of historic interest, the Decoy Pond. Decoy ponds were used to capture waterfowl for food. When the birds entered such a pond, the hunters lured them with food to narrow inlets where they were easily trapped in tapering nets. The age of the pond is uncertain, but by 1754 there was a house ‘Decoy House’, named after the pond, in existence (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/...). The pond is now a good place to spot a variety of waterfowl including ducks, moorhens and herons. It is surrounded by decorative iron benches in various states of disrepair. Each of them bears the coat of arms of the Borough of Barnet. While the waters of the pond are placid, and covered in many places with a good growth of green weeds, the Brent that flow past its northern edge is quite a torrent in comparison.

The BRENT in Brent Park

The BRENT in Brent Park

At one point, the river drops about five feet over a spectacular waterfall. Meanwhile, on the south side of the pond, but high above it, traffic rushes along the North Circular. Oddly, this hardly disturbs the peace of the lovely park.

Brent Street Bridge

Brent Street Bridge

Brent Street crosses the Brent over a brick bridge with wrought-iron railings. Beyond this, the river flows south-westwards between the back gardens of buildings on both sides of it, and there is no footpath to follow.

Weir at former Brent Bridge House

Weir at former Brent Bridge House

Garden structure by the weir at former Brent Bridge House

Garden structure by the weir at former Brent Bridge House

On the eastern side of the bridge, and only just visible through the dense vegetation, it may be seen that the river flows through a narrow artificial weir built between two ruined circular towers covered with graffiti. Each of these has a conical roof with several tiles missing. They appear to have been designed as viewing points or gazebos. These stand in what used to be the grounds of Brent Bridge House, which was an 18th century stuccoed building, once the seat of the Whishaws (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/...). Charles Whishaw had converted it from a farm house into a ‘gentleman’s residence’ by 1828. A John Wishaw, who was a son of the lawyer Richard Wishaw (1707-1787) also lived there (see: http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/...). Later, parts of this building were incorporated into the now long-since demolished Brent Bridge Hotel (opened just before 1914). In 1963, eleven years before it was demolished, my parents spent a few nights in the hotel whilst our damp house in Hampstead Garden Suburb was being dried out. It had been left unheated during the three winter months that we had spent in the USA.

The Brent east of Brent Street

The Brent east of Brent Street

Having explored something of the source of the Brent, we now shift several miles downstream, south-westwards to its ‘estuary’, where it flows into the River Thames at Brentford. The name ‘Brentford’, which appears in an early 8th century (AD) record, might either refer to a ford over the River Brent or the River Thames, which was in earlier times quite shallow where the Brent enters it. In any case, during the 1st century, there was a settlement there on a Roman Road from London to the west country. Archaeological evidence has been discovered (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/...), which suggests that there was a Neolithic settlement in what is now Brentford.

Brentford County Court

Brentford County Court

I began my exploration of Brentford outside its simple but elegant County Court, which was designed by CG Pinfold, and opened in 1963. Despite its age, it looks almost contemporary.

Alexandra House

Alexandra House

Next door to it, is Alexandra House, an asymmetric brick building with some circular windows and flat roofs at different levels. It was built as a health centre in 1938. It was designed by LA Cooper and KP Goble (see: http://www.brentfordhistory.com/categ...) in a ‘cubist’ design that looks bit like a three-dimensional version of a Piet Mondrian painting.

Old Fire Station Brentford

Old Fire Station Brentford

Both of these buildings are on the High Street, as is the Old Fire Station, which is east of them. The gables of this lovely red brick building are decorated with terracotta tiles bearing floral designs. Designed by Nowell Parr (1864-1933), it was opened in 1898. The fire station was closed in 1965, and then used as an ambulance station until 1980 (see: http://laytoncollection.org/index.php...). Since 1990, it has been used to house a restaurant.

Ferry Lane leads from the High Street to Soaphouse Lane, passing the Watermans Arms pub, which was first established in 1770, but the present establishment occupies a much more recent building.

Watermans Arms Ferry Lane Brentford

Watermans Arms Ferry Lane Brentford

Facing a small dock at the end of the eastern ‘arm’ of Ferry Lane, where canal longboats serving as houseboats are moored, stands the 18th century Peerless Pump Building. This was built in about 1720 (although it bears a sign with the date ‘1704’). It was home to the Rowe family, who were proprietors of the former ‘Thames Soap Works’, which flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries. By the end of the 19th century, the soap works occupied almost all the area between the High Street and the two branches of Ferry Lane. The small dock, an inlet from the Thames near the mouth of the Brent used to be called ‘Soaphouse Creek’ (see: http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk...).

Thames Soapworks creek

Thames Soapworks creek

Peerless Pump Building 1704 Brentford

Peerless Pump Building 1704 Brentford

The company prospered until the early 20th century, when it began to go into decline. Between 1916 and 1933, Lever Brothers tried to keep it going, but eventually closed it down. In 1952, some of the premises were used by Varley Pumps, and then later by Peerless Pumps (until 1989). In the 1990s, Rowe’s 18th century house was restored to its former glory, and retains the name ‘Peerless Pump Building’.

Travelling Crane rails

Travelling Crane rails

Lock Gates at Thames Soapworks creek

Lock Gates at Thames Soapworks creek

A cobbled lane with inset steel rails, along which a travelling crane once used to move, runs along the eastern edge of Soaphouse Creek towards the Thames. At the end of the tracks, there stands a large beautiful curved, curtain-like, steel sculpture, whose silvery surface is covered with delicate patterns. This is called ‘Liquidity’, and was created by Simon Packard in 2002.

Liquidity

Liquidity

Liquidity detail

Liquidity detail

After it was completed, some locals objected to it, and wanted it pulled down (see: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/d...), but it has survived … so far. It stands close to where for many centuries a ferry used to cross the Thames to Kew. This ferry was free to locals until 1536, when John Halle was appointed its keeper and charged one quarter of a penny to pedestrians and twice that to horsemen. The ferry continued to operate from this spot close to the former soap works until 1939.

Mouth of the River Brent at Brentford

Mouth of the River Brent at Brentford

From the sculpture, it is easy to view the mouth of the River Brent. The wedge of land formed between the two rivers is now covered with housing that surrounds Brentford Marina. This piece of land, reached by driving along Dock Road, was formerly dockland: ‘Brentford Docks’. In addition to the docks, there was a vast, now demolished, railway marshalling yard reached by a side-line that branched off the main Great Western Railway (‘GWR’) at Southall. Opened by the GWR in 1859, it continued working until 1964. A few years later the former dockland was re-developed for other purposes.

Between Brentford and southern Hanwell, the River Brent shares its waters with a branch of the Grand Union Canal. Until 1794, when the lower stretch of the Brent was engineered to become part of the canal system, the river could only be navigated by small craft (see: http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk...).

Thames Lock on River Brent

Thames Lock on River Brent

Thames Lock looking towards the Thames from River Brent

Thames Lock looking towards the Thames from River Brent

A few yards from the Brent’s estuary, there is the ‘Thames Lock’, which is overlooked by the bridge carrying Dock Road. This lock was built to bypass the last waterfall over which the Brent flows before entering the Thames. At the lock, the river bifurcates, some water going via the lock, and the rest via the falls. A small island covered with boat-repair yards exists between this fork in the river and where the two branches re-join downstream.

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Routemasters for hire on Dock Road Bentford

Routemasters for hire on Dock Road Bentford

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Lowest waterfall on the River Brent view under Dock Road Bridge Brentford

Lowest waterfall on the River Brent view under Dock Road Bridge Brentford

The small Johnsons Island is immediately upstream from the lock and the waterfall. It was named after Dr Wallace Johnson (1730-1813), who lived in The Butts (see below). A map dated 1900 marks it as the home of ‘Staffordshire Wharf’.

Johnsons Island Brentford

Johnsons Island Brentford

Entry to creek surrounding Johnsons Island Brentford

Entry to creek surrounding Johnsons Island Brentford

Since the 1990s, the island has been used as an artists’ colony (see: http://www.johnsonsislandartists.com/). Further upstream, Augustus Close crosses the Brent obliquely over a bridge, which is in the same spot as that which used to carry the railway to Brentford Docks. This bridge incorporates parts of the original rail bridge built as part of Isambard Brunel’s (1806-1859) last great engineering project.

Augustus Close bridge, formerly railway bridge to Brentford Dock

Augustus Close bridge, formerly railway bridge to Brentford Dock

Brentford Bridge

Brentford Bridge

The Brent curves northwards and passes under Brentford High Street which is carried across Brentford Bridge. This stone bridge, which is largely hidden by ugly metal cladding and parapets, was built in 1818. It is the latest ‘reincarnation’ of the first bridge, which was built in 1284.

The Six Bells near Brentford Bridge

The Six Bells near Brentford Bridge

The Six Bells pub is close to the bridge. Already licensed by 1722, the present building has existed from 1904. The ‘six bells’ refer to six bells that used to be rung in the nearby St Lawrence Church on special occasions.

A short distance upstream from the bridge, the Brent widens where the Brentford Gauging Lock with its two lock basins stands. This was once one of the busiest places on the Grand Union Canal. Its name refers to the fact that it was there that the toll-keeper assessed how much cargo was being carried by each barge (see: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/places...).

Brentford Gauging Lock

Brentford Gauging Lock

Toll house Brentford Gauging Lock

Toll house Brentford Gauging Lock

Milestone at Brentford Gauging Lock

Milestone at Brentford Gauging Lock

The present toll-keeper’s office was built in 1911. It contains a small exhibition. A mile-post next to the western lock basin informs that the lock is 93 miles from Braunston (in Northamptonshire), a central location on the canal system of the Midlands.

Weir just upstream from Brentford Gauging Lock

Weir just upstream from Brentford Gauging Lock

View up River Brent to Great West Road

View up River Brent to Great West Road

The Brent divides above the lock. One branch serves as the canal, and the other, which curves around an island covered with new housing blocks, falls picturesquely over a waterfall. The Brent then continues towards the A4 road, and the view along it is dominated by the recently built GlaxoSmithCline skyscraper. After viewing the lock, I left the Brent and entered the town of Brentford.

The Weir, formerly The White Horse

The Weir, formerly The White Horse

Turner lived here at The Weir

Turner lived here at The Weir

The Weir Bar, clad with green tiling around its ground floor, is a short distance from the waterfall mentioned above. Before 2004, it was called ‘The White Horse’. The pub has been in existence since the beginning of the 17th century, or earlier. The building that now houses it once belonged to the butcher William Marshal. His nephew, the greatest (in my opinion) British painter William Turner (1775-1851), lived here with his uncle between 1785 and 1787. It is said that Turner painted some of his first watercolours while living in this building.

The Butts

The Butts

The Butts

The Butts

Beaufort House, The Butts

Beaufort House, The Butts

Corner of The Butts and Upper Butts

Corner of The Butts and Upper Butts

A small road next to The Weir leads into The Butts, so-named from 1596. A ‘butt’ is an archery or shooting target or range (and, also, it can be a piece of raised ground, a word derived from the French ‘butte’). Whatever its meaning, the Butts is an open space surrounded by beautiful houses built mainly in the 18th century. Some of them are even older, dating from the late 17th century. Being so close to what is quite a mundane High Street, this historical ensemble comes as a delightful surprise, and it alone makes a visit to Brentford worthwhile. With their lovely architecture, well-tended gardens, attractive doorways, these buildings are worthy of close examination.

Boatmens Institute on The Butts Brentford

Boatmens Institute on The Butts Brentford

One building on the Butts is newer. Bearing the date 1904, this is the Boatmens Institute. Designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Noel Parr (1864-1933), who built many pubs for the west London Fullers Brewery, this was built on the site of an old mill (close to the waterfall mentioned above) for the London City Mission. Its original purpose was to educate the children of boatmen and to provide medical assistance for the boatmen’s wives (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listin... & http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk...). The ‘boatpeople’, who, like the Roma and Travellers, lived a life in constant motion, lived apart from the rest of the population, and were barely catered for. Therefore, the Institute, which cared for them, was much appreciated by them. It is one of only five or six examples of such an establishment to have ever been set-up in the UK.

St Marys Convent Brentford

St Marys Convent Brentford

St Marys Convent Brentford

St Marys Convent Brentford

Near to the Butts, there is another charitable institution, the St Mary’s Convent, also known as ‘St Raphael’s Convent’. The oldest part of the convent, which is almost opposite Beaufort House, was built in about 1792, and was originally the home of a Dr Cooper. It was bought in 1880 by Mother Mary Magdalen, a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism who had nursed in the Crimean War in the 1850s. The convent was gradually enlarged (with an unattractive brick building) in the early twentieth century. It houses, and caters for, women with learning difficulties and other problems.

Brentford's former court house

Brentford's former court house

The Butts was an extension of the Market Place. Its most interesting structure is now occupied by The Verdict, a beautiful café housed in the ground floor of what was once the Court House. This stands on the site of a market building for almost 300 years until it was demolished in about 1850. The present building, built as a town hall in 1852, was never used as a town hall. Instead, it became used as a courthouse. In 2012, the court was closed, and the building converted into flats above, and the restaurant below (see: http://www.brentfordhistory.com/2013/...).

Returning along the High Street towards the present County Court, we reach the Brentford Monument. When I visited it recently, it was enclosed in a wooden casing as it is about to be restored. However, I have seen this tall cylindrical stone monument on a previous visit. Originally, this granite pillar stood at one end of Brentford Bridge (see above). According to a historian of Middlesex Sir Montagu Sharpe (1857-1942), it was at Brentford that Julius Caesar crossed the Thames in 54 BC during his exploration of Britain (see: http://www.brentfordtw8.com/default.a...). The monument records that a confederation of British tribes led by Cassivellaunus “bravely opposed” Caesar’s advance towards Verulamium (near the modern St Albans). The monument also commemorated both Edmund Ironside defeating the Danes (led by King Canute) in 1016, and the Civil War Battle of Brentford (1642), a Royalist victory over the Parliamentarians.

Former court house, now cafe

Former court house, now cafe

This concludes my exploration of a source and the mouth of the River Brent, a once important tributary of the River Thames because of its inclusion in the Grand Union Canal network. At Brentford, we encounter sites that figure early in the history of London, and at Mutton Brook we travel through a part of London that was open countryside until the beginning of the twentieth century. In the future, I hope to explore the rest of the Brent, much of which flows, like Mutton Brook, through park land.

Footbridge over Brent at Brentford

Footbridge over Brent at Brentford

A RIVER IN LONDON: FROM TRICKLE TO TORRENT remains copyright of the author ADAMYAMEY, a member of the travel community Travellerspoint.

Post tags: london river thames brent romans river thames river brent mutton brook barnet brentford

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Published on June 30, 2017 06:33 • 2 views

June 20, 2017

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

Ladbroke Square Garden

Ladbroke Square Garden

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

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

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

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

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

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

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

Lansdowne House

Lansdowne House

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

Artists who lived in Lansdowne House

Artists who lived in Lansdowne House

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

Holland Park Avenue

Holland Park Avenue

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

On Holland Park Avenue

On Holland Park Avenue

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

St Volodmyr Holland Park Ave

St Volodmyr Holland Park Ave

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

The Benns lived here

The Benns lived here

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

Camden Hill Tower

Camden Hill Tower

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

Notting Hill mural

Notting Hill mural

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

The Coronet

The Coronet

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

In The Gate Cinema

In The Gate Cinema

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

Prince Albert pub

Prince Albert pub

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

Cabmen's Shelter Kensington Park Road

Cabmen's Shelter Kensington Park Road

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

The Mercury Theatre

The Mercury Theatre

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

St Peters Notting Hill

St Peters Notting Hill

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

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

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

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

St Johns Notting Hill

St Johns Notting Hill

St Johns interior

St Johns interior

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

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

Montpelier Gardens on Lansdowne Rise

Montpelier Gardens on Lansdowne Rise

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

Clarendon Works brickworks, Clarendon Cross

Clarendon Works brickworks, Clarendon Cross

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

Clarendon Cross

Clarendon Cross

Hippodrome Place

Hippodrome Place

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

Hippodrome Mews

Hippodrome Mews

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

Pottery Lane

Pottery Lane

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

Earl of Zetland in Pottery Lane

Earl of Zetland in Pottery Lane

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

St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi

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

Inside St Francis of Assisi

Inside St Francis of Assisi

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

Pottery kiln

Pottery kiln

Kiln plaque

Kiln plaque

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

Avondale Park

Avondale Park

Avondale Park pavilion

Avondale Park pavilion

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

Kensington Leisure Centre

Kensington Leisure Centre

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

Old foundation stone near Kensington Leisure Centre

Old foundation stone near Kensington Leisure Centre

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

Kensington Aldridge Academy

Kensington Aldridge Academy

Notting Hill Methodist Church

Notting Hill Methodist Church

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

Grenfell Tower, destroyed by fire on 16 June 2016

Grenfell Tower, destroyed by fire on 16 June 2016

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

Bramley Road: 'new' WALMER HOUSE

Bramley Road: 'new' WALMER HOUSE

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

Derelict house Bramley Road

Derelict house Bramley Road

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

Scampston Mews

Scampston Mews

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

St Helens Church

St Helens Church

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

The Garden next to Latymer Road Station

The Garden next to Latymer Road Station

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

Lockton Street doorway

Lockton Street doorway

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

Former Holy Trinity Church Freston Rd 1887

Former Holy Trinity Church Freston Rd 1887

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

Former Latymer Road School Freston Street 1879

Former Latymer Road School Freston Street 1879

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

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. Eton fives courts

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. Eton fives courts

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. An Eton fives court

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. An Eton fives court

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

Under Westway / A3220 interchange

Under Westway / A3220 interchange

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

Former Latimer Arms pub

Former Latimer Arms pub

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

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

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

Former Bramley Arms

Former Bramley Arms

Retracing our steps, we return to Freston Road. Where this road meets Bramley road at a sharp angle, stands the ‘Bramley Arms’, a former pub. This nineteenth century pub, which closed in the 1980s, was used as a location in the films “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “Quadrophenia” (see: http://www.closedpubs.co.uk/london/w1...). It is now used for housing. Further down the road, we reach a large red brick building bearing large notices, one inset in the brickwork and another in colourful mosaic, that inform the viewer that this was once ‘The People’s Hall’.

The Peoples Hall

The Peoples Hall

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

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

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

Corner of Wilsham Street and St Anns Road

Corner of Wilsham Street and St Anns Road

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

St James Church

St James Church

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

Holland Park Synagogue

Holland Park Synagogue

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

Tabernacle School St Anns Villas

Tabernacle School St Anns Villas

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

St Ann Villas

St Ann Villas

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

The Organ Factory

The Organ Factory

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

Gurdwara Sikh Temple

Gurdwara Sikh Temple

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

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

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

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

Garden of Royal Crescent

Garden of Royal Crescent

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

Drinking fountain Royal Crescent

Drinking fountain Royal Crescent

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

Shepherds Bush water tower

Shepherds Bush water tower

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

AVONDALE PARK GATES

AVONDALE PARK GATES

EXPLORING KENSINGTON'S RACE-COURSE remains copyright of the author ADAMYAMEY, a member of the travel community Travellerspoint.

Post tags: london ukrainian travellers synagogue kensington jews sikhs racecourse hippodrome gypsies notting hill horse-racing frestonia grenfell tower

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Published on June 20, 2017 03:00 • 13 views

June 4, 2017

Grilling at Arcola street Mangal

Grilling at Arcola street Mangal

For me, one of the best things about London is the great mix of peoples of all races and beliefs that makes up its population. Another delight is the lack of uniformity of the city, which resulted from the coalescing of once almost isolated towns and villages.In this piece, we explore some aspects of three historic places - Dalston, Stoke Newington, and Stamford Hill - along the old Roman Road to Lincoln and York known as ‘Ermine Street’. The earliest record of Dalston is from 1294. The name is derived from ‘Deorlaf's tun’ (‘tun’, meaning ‘farm). Stoke Newington, which means ‘new town in the wood’ was built by the Saxons. Stamford Hill first appeared in records in the 13th century, its name meaning ‘the hill by the sandy ford’ (see: “The London Encyclopaedia”, ed. by B Weinreb and C Hibbert). Enough background, let's get a move on!

Former Reeve's paint factory - detail

Former Reeve's paint factory - detail

We started visiting the Dalston area on a regular basis in about 2006. It was then that we first tried, and then fell in love with, a highly-recommended Turkish grill restaurant, ‘Mangal’, in Arcola Street. We continue to eat there regularly, because it serves some of the best grilled meat that we have tasted anywhere. Opposite the restaurant, there used to be a wonderful theatre, the Arcola Theatre, which was housed in an old factory. This has now relocated (see below). Since its relocation, we have begun patronising Ozdiller - a marvellous warehouse-like Turkish ‘cash and carry’ grocery shop in the former factory (and theatre) premises opposite the restaurant.

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Kebabs at Arcola Street Mangal

Arcola Street, named after Napoleon’s victory against the Austrians at Arcole (aka ‘Arcola’) in 1796, is a small lane leading into Kingsland Road (A10), which forms part of the Roman road that led to Lincoln and York, the so-called ‘Ermine Street’. Elsewhere, I have described in detail the part of this road between Seven Sisters and Upper Edmonton. Now, I will portray the stretch south of this between Dalston and Stamford Hill. In doing so, we will travel through areas where many women cover their heads, some with veils and others with wigs.

Old and new buildings at Kingsland Road Dalston Lane junction

Old and new buildings at Kingsland Road Dalston Lane junction

Our tour begins near Dalston Junction Station at the junction of Kingsland Road and Dalston Lane. The modernised station is part of a new development of apartment blocks, shops, and restaurants. Neighbouring these, and in complete contrast to them, there are some older (18th century or early 19th century) buildings on the Kingsland Road. Where the two roads meet, there is a 19th century building that was once the ‘Crown and Castle’ pub.

Former Crown and Castle, Kingsland Road

Former Crown and Castle, Kingsland Road

It was already open for business in 1851, and it closed its doors finally in about 2005 (see: http://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/Hac...). It was under threat of demolition after it closed (see: http://opendalston.blogspot.co.uk/200...), but has so far evaded destruction. Currently, its ground floor is home to an eatery called ‘The Diner’.

Once, the Reeves factory

Once, the Reeves factory

Ashwin Street, which runs north off Dalston Lane, leads to the relocated premises of the Arcola Theatre. This is now housed in the former Reeves paint factory. In 1766, William Reeves opened his first shop near St Pauls Cathedral, manufacturing and selling artists’ paints (see: http://www.reeves-art.com). William was a great innovator in paint production He invented the watercolour ‘blocks’ – solid lumps of paint whose surfaces dissolve when touched by a wet brush - artists still use them today. It was his brother Thomas, who set the company on the road to economic success. Much paint was sent to India for use by the East India Company, but the 1857 ‘Indian Mutiny’ damaged this profitable sector of the market. The company recovered, and by 1868 it was able to build the substantial factory that now houses the Arcola Theatre and various other leisure institutions. In 1948, Reeves shifted their offices to a new factory in Enfield.

Arcola Theatre entrance

Arcola Theatre entrance

Arcola Theatre: largest stage

Arcola Theatre: largest stage

The Arcola Theatre was started in 2000 in an old textile factory in Arcola Street by the Turkish theatre director Mehmet Ergen. It moved to the Ashwin Street site in 2011, when the landlord in Arcola Street wanted to re-develop the building. It remains undeveloped. The present Arcola in the Reeves Factory has three performance spaces – one large, and two intimately small. It also has a spacious bar, and a café area near to the ticket office in the foyer. The theatre company prides itself on trying to be energy efficient. It puts on a range of plays, often performed to a high standard. We have rarely been disappointed, but often amazed by the top-rate acting and direction. In all three auditoria, there is not a seat with a poor view of the stage. Like several ‘alternative’ theatres in London (e.g. The Finborough, The Park, The Gate, The Print Room), what is on offer at the Arcola is usually far more satisfying than what is performed at the more ‘mainstream’ (and expensive) West End theatres. We attend the Arcola frequently.

Shiloh Pentacostal Church in Ashwin Street

Shiloh Pentacostal Church in Ashwin Street

Opposite the theatre, there is a large church, which was built in 1871. The architectural historians B Cherry and N Pevsner describe this building as: “… a hefty former Baptist chapel …” built with “… a coarse Lombard Romanesque front…”. Now, it is called ‘The Shiloh Pentecostal Chapel’. Services are held there, but its main purpose is to teach prospective pastors and ‘Christian workers’. Close to this on a corner site, there are the premises of ‘HJ Aris’, which still advertises itself as: “Wine shipper and Bonder”.

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HJ Aris, Ashwin Street

This was built as a pub, the former ‘Railway Tavern’ in Victorian times (1868). HJ Aris, whose name is carved above its main entrance, was the publican between 1899 and 1939 (see: http://hackneybuildings.org/items/sho...). It closed in the 1970s. Now, the premises are used as a second-hand ‘emporium’. Its attractive, varied wares are well-displayed in such a way that one feels as if one has entered the set for ghost film or a ‘gothick’ story. Tasty, carefully prepared snacks and drinks are available, and consumers can sit on the antique/second-hand seating that is being offered for sale.

Ridley Road market

Ridley Road market

Returning to Kingsland Road, we soon reach Ridley Road, where a market is held most days. Located opposite Dalston Kingsland Station, this market was established in the 1880s. It straggles along the long Ridley Road. Although many exotic fruits and vegetables are on offer, it is not a particularly picturesque market. Many of the lady customers wear head coverings, and the area’s rich ethnic mix can be observed in this bustling centre of commerce.

Gillett Square

Gillett Square

Further north, a short passage leads to Gillett Square. In good weather, clusters of people can be seen here enjoying themselves: making music, chatting, playing cards and chess, and so on. At one end of the rectangular ‘square’, there is a modern building, a converted factory, the ‘Dalston Culture House’ (completed 2005). Several ‘pod kiosks’ line the south side of the square. At least one of these serves as a café. Near these, there is an art installation consisting of a freight container covered with small mirrors angulated in various directions. I am not clear who created this, but I believe that it is used to store outdoor toys.

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Mirrored container in Gillett Square

The project to develop the square (from disused industrial premises and a car park) into a ‘new urban space’ began in the late 1990s (see: http://www.gillettsquare.org.uk/about...), and has been successful. A good time to visit it is on a warm summer evening when plenty of people are enjoying it. The squares website describes it well: “A blank canvas for a community to paint differently, every day.”

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Voodo Ray's

Just north of the square, one restaurant stands out from the many that line Kingsland Road. This is one of three branches of ‘Voodo Ray’s’, a restaurant that serves delicious looking pizzas by the slice or as a huge 22-inch whole. I imagine that the restaurant’s name is related to the acid house single, “Voodoo Ray”, by Gerald Simpson, released in 1988.

Rio Cinema

Rio Cinema

The elegant Rio Cinema is several doors north of the pizza parlour. Beautifully restored (or conserved), this building dates from 1937, when an older building, which had been a cinema, the ‘Empire’, since 1915 was restyled (internally and externally) in the art-deco style by the cinema architect FE Bromige (see: http://riocinema.org.uk). Until 1979, when it became known as the ‘Rio’, the Empire was re-named the ‘Classic’. An independent cinema, it shows films with less popular appeal as well as those on general widespread release. One year, we attended several screenings of films presented as part of a Turkish film festival.

Although Dalston is being ‘discovered’ and colonised by young trend-setters, it remains a veritable ethnic mixing pot. Turkish and Kurdish hairdressers’ shops have, as neighbours, African hairdressers, whose female clients sit for ages while they have hair extensions applied. Trendy new bars are interspersed between numerous eateries offering all manner of (mostly) Turkish and Kurdish foods. This is the place to enjoy a kebab, or some lahmacun, or some börek, or some sarma, or a gösleme, or Turkish tea, or baklava, or simit, or a plate of meze, or some imam bayildi, or, perhaps, all of them at one sitting! At Tugra bakery, not only can you sample some of the best baklava that I have ever eaten, but you might well be served by Turkish-speaking Uighur people, Moslem refugees from Communist China.

Numerous food shops offer a bewildering range of goods, for example: tropical fish (fresh and frozen); exotic fruit and vegetables; halal meat; and alcoholic drinks from all over the world. This is a place to buy white cheeses or olives from Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Matching this variety of foodstuffs is the diversity of different clothing styles that can be seen: ‘Europeans’ in ‘smart casual’, Africans and Afro-Carribeans in colourful, often flamboyant, outfits; and Moslem women protecting their modesty in a variety of styles relating to where their families originated, be it the Middle East or parts of Africa. Although the architecture is British, the area feels anything but British. In warm weather, one could easily imagine being abroad when mixing with the varied crowd on the street. However, there are few places out of London, where one could meet so many nationalities in one place, and that is what helps make the city almost unique.

Savoy, then ABC cinema, now snooker parlour

Savoy, then ABC cinema, now snooker parlour

The Efes Snooker Club, a few yards north of the Rio, was once a cinema. Like the Rio, it was an art-deco cinema. Designed by ABC cinema’s in-house architect William R Glen (1885-1950), the Savoy Cinema opened in 1936 (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1...). Between 1961 and 1977, it was called the ‘ABC’. Then, it changed hands, and became the ‘Konak’ cinema, which screened movies from India’s ‘Bollywood’ studios. From 1982 to 1984, new owners called it the ‘Ace’, which was not a successful venture. After that, the building was left to become derelict and a target for vandals. When Turkish organisations took over the building in about 1995, its future was assured. Although its exterior looks rather shabby, it is still recognisable as a former cinema.

Princess May School

Princess May School

Just north of Arcola Street (see above), there is the corner plot on which the Princes May Road School stands. This magnificent gabled building in red brick bears the date 1900, but it was first opened as a ‘board school’ (locally-run elementary school: free education for children of hard-up families, otherwise fee-paying) in 1892 for 304 boys and the same number of girls. The school faces the A10, which has at this point become Stoke Newington Road.

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St Johns Court

The school faces a neo-classical building, St Johns Court, across the main road. Built to the designs of Sir John Taylor (1833-1912, see: http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/) of The Office of Works in 1889, the same year as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, this was originally the Dalston Police Court, and then later the North London Magistrates Court (see: http://hackneybuildings.org/items/sho...). Like many other court houses (e.g. the West London County Court in West Kensington and Central London County Court in Regents Park) in London, this one has been converted to commercial and residential use.

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Former Simpsons factory, NOW Olympic House

Next to the former courthouse, there is a huge art-deco building with large windows, and faced with white stone. It stands on a corner plot. The white building is the front of a line of massive industrial buildings that stretch along Somerford Grove. Now named ‘Olympia House’ the white building that faces Stoke Newington Road was once the front of the former Simpsons factory. Its construction was commissioned by ‘rags-to riches’ Simeon Simpson, one of the biggest manufacturers of high quality men’s clothing during the period between the two World Wars. The company moved from smaller premises in Middlesex Street (in E1) into this enormous factory after it was built in 1929 to the designs of Hobden and Porri (see: http://hackneybuildings.org/items/sho...). It was in this factory that the once well-known ‘DAKS’ trousers were made. Ten to fifteen years ago, we visited this building, part of which then served as a Kurdish community meeting centre. I remember entering a large room where many people were sitting at long tables drinking tea. We joined them for a ‘cuppa’. It reminded me of a waiting area at a bus station in Eastern Europe long ago. Now, different parts of the building serve a variety of purposes.

Aziziye Camii

Aziziye Camii

Continuing northwards along Stoke Newington Road, the drab line of buildings is dramatically punctuated by a building that looks as if it had been transported there from Bukhara or Samarkand. Covered in blue and white tiles and sporting several golden domes, this is the Aziziye Camii. It is an Ottoman-style mosque funded by the UK Turkish Islamic Association. The building looks almost brand new, but it is not. Its history (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1...) is one of profanity to sanctity.

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Aziziye Camii

The building began life in 1913 as the ‘Apollo Picture House’. In 1933, it became the ‘Ambassador Cinema’, which closed in 1963. Between 1965 and 1974, it became a bingo club, but in 1974 it returned to being a cinema, ‘The Astra’. The Astra became a private cinema club screening films of martial arts and soft porn. Then in 1994, after closing in 1983 and having been disused for several years, it became a mosque, and acquired its glorious tiling and domes. The former foyer of the cinema contains shops including a halal butcher and a Turkish grill restaurant.

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Coronation Avenue

Our next landmark is one of a series of Edwardian apartment blocks (built 1910), Coronation Avenue, opposite a large police station on Victorian Road. The gates to this and its neighbour Imperial Avenue are in the art-nouveau style, designed by the Jewish architect and social worker Nathan Joseph (1834-1909). On the 13th of October 1940, 160 people were killed when an explosive bomb made a direct hit on an air-raid shelter beneath Coronation Avenue (for a first-hand account of this tragedy, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopl...).

White Hart, Stoke Newington

White Hart, Stoke Newington

Several picturesque pubs in 18th and 19th century buildings line Stoke Newington High Street north of the police station. These include ‘The White Hart’ (first established as ‘The White Hind’ between 1625 and 1703); ‘The Rochester Castle’ with its attractively decorated bow window (formerly ‘The Green Dragon’, established by 1702); ‘The Coach and Horses’ (an 18th century coaching house: “…it is one of the oldest remaining public houses in the borough of Hackney which was formerly in the county of Middlesex”, according to http://coachandhorsesn16.com/); ‘The Three Crowns’ (an old establishment, rebuilt in 1898); and the flamboyantly decorated ‘The Jolly Butchers’ (it has been in existence as a pub since before 1826). This cluster of hostelries attests to Stoke Newington’s early existence as a village and, also, a stopping place on the road from London to the north.

Rochester Castle detail

Rochester Castle detail

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The Coach and Horses

Three Crowns, St Newington detail

Three Crowns, St Newington detail

Jolly Butcher Stoke Newington detail

Jolly Butcher Stoke Newington detail

In between the pubs, one can spot evidence of the immense Turkish influence in north-east London not only in the form of Turkish shops and eateries, but also in the shape of a discrete shopfront that bears a sign “Beşiktaş FC, members only”.

Besiktas FC Stoke Newington

Besiktas FC Stoke Newington

This is a social club for local supporters of an important Istanbul football team. And amongst these, there is the beautiful modern ‘High Street Methodist Church’. An elegantly simple 21st century structure, it was designed by Julian Cowie’s architectural practice.

High Street Methodist Church Stoke Newington

High Street Methodist Church Stoke Newington

An aging notice on number 220 Stoke Newington High Street (just south of the junction with Northwold Road) reads “Market Place”. This “… suggests a previous, though long since forgotten, use” (see: https://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Doc...). Almost opposite this, there are several large 18th century patrician buildings. One of them, number 189, was a private residence until 1864, when it became a dispensary, which it remained until after WW2. Now, it houses a solicitors’ firm.

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189 Stoke Newington High Str

Next door to it, and set back from the road, stands number 191. This building went through several reincarnations: until 1848, it housed an infant orphan asylum; during the 1850s, it became a private home; by 1860, it was a girls’ school; and after reverting to be a residence, it was the London Female Penitentiary (later London Female Guardian Society) from 1884 until WW2 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/...). This organisation worked “… for the rescue, reclamation and protection of betrayed and fallen women” (see: “Do Penance Or Perish: Magdalen Asylums in Ireland” by F Finnegan).

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191 Stoke Newington High Street

A map surveyed in 1870 shows that number 187 (the original building is now much modified) was an ‘Invalid Female Asylum’. This was founded by the Quaker Mary Lister in 1825 as the ‘Invalid Asylum for Respectable Women in London and Its Vicinity’. It “was intended to accommodate working women of the servant class whose health had broken down and who need rest and some nursing and medical care, but who were not seriously ill. It was felt that the country air of Stoke Newington would be beneficial to them. … Before admission, each patient had to produce a certificate of good moral conduct signed by two respectable housekeepers or her employer. Strict rules had to be followed within the Asylum and patients were required to provide some nursing care for their fellow patients, as well as undertaking cleaning of the wards.” (my italics, see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/homehospita...). Later, until it closed in 1940, it served as a hospital for women.

Entrance to Abney Park

Entrance to Abney Park

Just north of these institutions that were supposed to enhance or preserve life, there is a large cemetery, Abney Park. For anyone who likes Victorian cemeteries, this is a ‘must-see’. It is entered through a neo-Egyptian style gateway. A long, straight, cobbled roadway heads towards a veritable forest. Amongst the trees and bushes, there are paths lined with funerary monuments. Some of the footpaths are overgrown, the gravestones lining them are buried in luxuriant vegetation. In the middle of the cemetery, there stands the skeleton of a cruciform ‘Gothick’ chapel, which was designed by William Hosking (1800-1861) and opened in 1840.

Abney Park chapel detail

Abney Park chapel detail

Its ghostly appearance is enhanced by the dark spaces where once there was delicate stone tracery holding panes of glass, which have long since disappeared through neglect and vandalism in the past. Although a place where the dead repose, the cemetery is a hive of activity with: visitors; babies being aired in their push-chairs; dogs being taken for walks; and groups schoolchildren roaming around with their teachers looking at the place’s abundance of wildlife.

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Abney Park: a leafy alley

Abney Park Cemetery was one of a series (or ring) of public burial grounds (including, for example, Abney Park, Highgate Cemetery, Norwood, and Kensal Green) that were established around London following a campaign led by the barrister George F Carden (1798-1874) between the years 1831 to 1841. He was inspired to do this after visiting the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in 1821. Abney Park was established in the late 1830s (for detailed history, see: “A Guide to Abney Park Cemetery” by Paul Joyce, publ. 1994). Unlike many of the cemeteries established during that period in London, Abney Park was non-denominational. It was declared that every portion of it: “… should be open to all parties without distinction or preference.” (see: Joyce, above).

Abney Park: 'graffiti' on a rubbish container

Abney Park: 'graffiti' on a rubbish container

Amongst those buried in the cemetery, many were non-conformists. The best known of these is William Booth (1829-1912), the Methodist founder of the Salvation Army. In 2005, the grave of Joanna Vassa (1795-1857) was discovered at Abney Park. She was a child of the former ‘black’ African slave (born in West Africa, an Igbo) and then abolitionist Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), known during his lifetime as ‘Gustavus Vassa’, and his ‘white’ British wife Susannah (née Cullen, from Soham in Cambridgeshire). Joanna married the congregational minister Henry Bromley, and lived with him in Hackney, where she died in 1857 (see: http://www.abneypark.org/history/well...).

Given that this piece is about a multicultural part of London, allow me to digress a little about Equiano. He achieved great fame with the publication of his autobiography in 1789 (“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: or, Gustavus Vassa, the African…”). While on a bookselling tour in Cambridgeshire, he first met his future wife, and married her in 1792 (see: “Equiano the African”, by V Carretta, publ. 2006). He felt that his marriage to a European foretold on a personal level the union that he hoped would be achieved between nations. Carretta wrote that in 18th century England, there was a greater demand for male black servants than for female. This led to a gender imbalance in the black serving peoples’ community in England, and consequently there were far more ‘black’ males living with ‘white’ females than the opposite. These inter-racial relationships were rarely frowned upon (in public). Equiano and his family were not discriminated against. Today, relationships between members of different ethnic groups are common in London, but, clearly, nothing new. A liberal attitude to marrying out of one’s own community is rare amongst some of those people living in the part of London immediately to the north of Abney Park.

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Satmar butcher, Stamford Hill

Stoke Newington High Street ends at Abney Park. Then, the A10 begins ascending the stretch of road called ‘Stamford Hill’. Very soon after the road begins to climb, you will see ‘Satmar’, a shop selling meat and poultry. In addition to the Hebrew on the shop sign, there is a circular notice in both Hebrew and English indicating that the shop sells Kosher goods. Stamford Hill is well-known for its Hasidic Jewish community.

Some Jewish people lived in the Stamford Hill area as early as the 18th century, but the Jewish population only began to grow significantly in the 1880s. This resulted from Jewish families wishing to escape the poverty of places like Stepney in the East End. Jewish refugees from Europe (for example Nazi Germany, and later Soviet Russia) joined them later. In 1926, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations was established in Stamford Hill. This is one of the reasons that the area attracted the highly Orthodox Jews (like the Hasidics). The area has, therefore, the largest Hasidic community in Europe.

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Stamford Hill local people

You would have to be very unobservant not to notice the characteristic garb worn by the religious Jewish men and boys. Many of them wear clothing that would not looked out of place during the 19th (or even 18th) century in the Jewish areas of towns all over Eastern Europe. Knee length jackets/coats (‘bekishe’), often black, are frequently worn along with a variety of head coverings ranging from skull caps to cylindrical fur hats (‘shtreimel’). The men have luxuriant facial hair. The young boys have dangling side curls. The Hasidic wives wear wigs, known as 'sheytl' in Yiddish, to conceal their own hair. This has its parallels in Islam, where rules of ‘hijab’ often prevail. Due to the multi-ethnic population in the area, one can often see Jewish women wearing wigs (sheytls) walking along the same stretch of pavement as Moslem women wearing veils (hijab).

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Scheytl and hijab

A young man near Stamford Hill Library

A young man near Stamford Hill Library

Stamford Hill at Corner of Reizel Close

Stamford Hill at Corner of Reizel Close

At the corner of Reizels Close and Stamford Hill, there are two large houses that look as if they are either late 18th or early 19th century. Up the hill from these, stand the large brick buildings that comprise the Guinness Trust Estate, which was completed in 1932 and contains 400 residential units. “In 1890, philanthropist Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, the great grandson of the founder of the Guinness Brewery, gave £200,000 to set up The Guinness Trust in London … He wanted to help improve the lives of ordinary people, many of whom couldn’t afford decent homes.” (quoted from: http://history.guinnesspartnership.co...). Guinness was not the only charitable trust set up to improve Londoners’ living conditions. His was one of about thirty such organisations that included the well-known Peabody Trust.

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Stamford Hill Guiness Trust Estate Adam House

The Guinness buildings are opposite another huge, ugly housing estate, ‘Stamford Hill’. This was built in the 1930s by the London County Council. Further up the hill and well-protected by security guards and closed-circuit tv cameras, there are several buildings of importance to the local Jewish community.

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Stamford Hill Brenner Community Centre

One of these is the Brenner Community Centre, which offers care and support for the elderly, might be at risk of closure (see: https://www.thejc.com/community/commu...). This is embedded amongst other Jewish organisations including the large Lubavitch House (‘Chabad Lubavitch UK’), UK headquarters and community centre of the Lubavitch, a major worldwide Hasidic movement. The movement (aka ‘chabad’) was founded Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812) in Liozna, which is now in Belarus. ‘Chabad’ is the transliteration of a Hebrew acronym meaning ‘wisdom, understanding, and knowledge’. Lubavitch was the village in Belarus, where the movement was first based.

Stamford Hill Lubavitch House

Stamford Hill Lubavitch House

In addition to the Hasidic Jews, there are also many Haredi Jews in the area. The Haredi Jews, which include the Hasidics, are strictly Orthodox. The Hebrew word ‘haredi’ can be interpreted as ‘one who trembles at the word of God’. The Haredi Jews, who reject modern secular culture, are very family minded, and often have large numbers of children, a far higher birth-rate than the national average. In a highly informative article about the Haredi of Stamford Hill, Mick Brown wrote: “While mainstream Judaism in Britain is in decline, as people ‘marry out’ and abandon the faith, the Haredi community is expanding at a phenomenal rate” (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/relig...). They try to be self-sufficient and charitable (see “The Jewish Community of Golders Green”, by P Fox, publ. 2016), but resist change. I did notice several men in traditional apparel deep in conversation with their mobile ‘phones held close to their ears.

Beis Ruchel D'Satmar School

Beis Ruchel D'Satmar School

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Beis Ruchel D'Satmar School detail

At the summit of Stamford Hill, where a rather dismal shopping centre is arranged around a major road crossing, there is one exceptional building. It is an elaborate 19th century building with a small central cupola, mansard windows and other architectural finery. This was once the ‘Skinners Company School for Girls’. It was built in 1889 to the designs of EH Burnell, and then modified by W Campbell Jones in the 1890s (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listin...). The school closed in 2010. Now, it houses a Jewish primary school for girls aged five to eleven years. It is now called ‘Beis Ruchel D’Satmar’ (‘Satmar’ is the name of one of the largest Haredi congregations in the area).

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St Ignatius

A short distance north of the summit of Stamford Hill, there is the imposing St Ignatus Catholic Church built mostly in brick with two massive bell-towers. Completed in 1911 to the designs of architect/priest Benedict Williamson (1868-1948), it was described in 1966 by the architectural writer Ian Nairn as: “Grandeur in mean surroundings…”. The meanness of the surroundings persists, but not in the sense meant by Nairn. When I visited the church, I noticed a special container, a ‘knife bin’, which bore the words “Get a life, bin that knife”.

STAM 18j St Ignatius: knife bin

STAM 18j St Ignatius: knife bin

This church marked the end of my exploration of this part of the Ermine Street. From there, many buses will take you back to Dalston, which is where I will conclude this piece with a description of a very special place.

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Hackney Peace Carnival mural- a detail

Almost opposite Dalton Junction Station and just east of HJ Aris (see above), there is a small open space bordered by a windowless wall, the end of a row of buildings, covered with a huge painting. This vivacious artwork full of political messages, mostly anti-nuclear, is the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural, created by Ray Walker (1945-1984) and painted, after his death, in 1985. It stands next to one of the wonders of Hackney, The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. The garden was created in 2010 on wasteland that had been part of the: “…Eastern Curve railway line’ which once linked Dalston Junction Station to the goods yard and the North London Line” (see: http://dalstongarden.org/about-2/).

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

You enter the garden from a small square, which is dominated by the mural by Ray Walker. As soon as you enter the garden, you find yourself in a wood-covered enclosure that is open to the garden and the elements. Under the canopy, there is a bar/café, that serves hot and cold beverages as well as alcohol. In summer, a wood-fired pizza oven is in action producing pizzas on some evenings. The garden is overflowing with plants (tended by local volunteers), an assortment of seats, and quirky folksy artwork. During one visit, I spotted a group of wild rabbits gambolling amongst the vegetation. At the far end of the garden there is a children's play area and, also, a view of a fantastic mural on a nearby building. This garden of delights is well worth a visit. Order a pint of beer or a cup of tea, and recover from either your exploration of this area or just reading about it!

[image error]

Dalston Curve Garden

HILL AND DALE: WIG AND VEIL remains copyright of the author ADAMYAMEY, a member of the travel community Travellerspoint.

Post tags: turkish african islam multi-ethnic kurdish dalston stamford hill stoke newington judaisn hassidic haredi lubavitch

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Published on June 04, 2017 08:20 • 5 views

May 24, 2017

Dartmoor in the mist

Dartmoor in the mist

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

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

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

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

Granite summit of Haytor

Granite summit of Haytor

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

Haytor Quarry: view

Haytor Quarry: view

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

Haytor Quarry: worked stones

Haytor Quarry: worked stones

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

Haytor Quarry: wall

Haytor Quarry: wall

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

Haytor Quarry: an old winch

Haytor Quarry: an old winch

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

Haytor Quarry: an old link

Haytor Quarry: an old link

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

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

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

Haytor Quarry and winch

Haytor Quarry and winch

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

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

Stretch of Haytor Tramway near the quarry

Stretch of Haytor Tramway near the quarry

Tramway track: detail

Tramway track: detail

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

Ventiford Basin: sidings

Ventiford Basin: sidings

Ventiford Basin: a junction

Ventiford Basin: a junction

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

Ventiford Basin of the Stover Canal

Ventiford Basin of the Stover Canal

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

Teigngrace lock

Teigngrace lock

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

Teignbridge: bridge detail

Teignbridge: bridge detail

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

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

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

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

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

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

London Bridge at Lake Havasu City

London Bridge at Lake Havasu City

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

Lake Havasu City

Lake Havasu City

Lake Havasu: plaque on London Bridge

Lake Havasu: plaque on London Bridge

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

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

Lake Havasu: London Bridge

Lake Havasu: London Bridge

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

Postbridge (Dartmoor): Clapper Bridge

Postbridge (Dartmoor): Clapper Bridge

HAYTOR TO HAVASU: a story set in stone remains copyright of the author ADAMYAMEY, a member of the travel community Travellerspoint.

Post tags: london arizona bridge usa devon granite dartmoor haytor lonson bridge

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Published on May 24, 2017 10:36 • 2 views

May 11, 2017

Dalston Curve Gardens entrance

Dalston Curve Gardens entrance


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

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

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

Dalston Curve Garden - view of refreshment area

Dalston Curve Garden - view of refreshment area

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

Dalston Curve Garden - pizza oven

Dalston Curve Garden - pizza oven

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

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

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

Dalston Curve Garden- children'splay area

Dalston Curve Garden- children'splay area

Dalston Curve Garden - mural on a nearby building

Dalston Curve Garden - mural on a nearby building

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

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

A GARDEN OF DELIGHTS remains copyright of the author ADAMYAMEY, a member of the travel community Travellerspoint.

Post tags: london garden dalston hackney

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Published on May 11, 2017 10:53 • 4 views

May 9, 2017

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

Everyman cinema

Everyman cinema

It was in the Everyman that I watched a film (‘movie’) for the first time in my life. It was one of the only, if not the only, film I ever watched with my parents, who were not keen cinema-goers. Typically, my first film was not a popular children’s film like “Tweety and the Beanstalk” or “Bugs Bunny” or a Walt Disney cartoon. It was the French film “Le ballon rouge”, now an ‘art film classic’, which first appeared in 1956. I must have watched it a year or two later. My parents, who dissuaded me from reading popular culture, such as books written by Enid Blyton, were anxious to expose me to what they believed to be the more sophisticated aspects of literature, theatre, and, in this case, film.In the 1960s and ‘70s, the Everyman tended to screen so-called ‘art films’, rather than the more popular ones that went out on general release. As I grew up, that kind of film suited me. So, I visited the Everyman frequently. Its interior used to be somewhat spartan. What lingers in my memory is that the auditorium always had a curious smell, that of leaking gas.Once a year, the cinema put on a season of Marx Brothers films. I saw most of them, but never wanted to see the same one twice because, in my youth, I was able to remember well what happened in each film. The season took place in the summer months. Often, I walked across Hampstead Heath to watch a matinee screening. If the weather was good, I would often be the only person in the auditorium apart from the usher or usherette.Today, the Everyman is still in business, but shows more ‘run-of-the-mill’ films, which attract larger audiences than the obscure kind of films that used to be the ‘speciality’ of the cinema. It is part of a chain of cinemas called Everyman Cinemas.

THE EVERYMAN remains copyright of the author ADAMYAMEY, a member of the travel community Travellerspoint.

Post tags: london theatre movies film cinema hampstead everyman

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Published on May 09, 2017 11:42 • 3 views

May 6, 2017

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

In the grounds of Bruce Castle, about which I will write in the future, there is a small fenced-off Garden of Remembrance. It is an attractively designed memorial to the victims of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi Germans and their sympathisers.

The garden was created by young offenders as part of their rehabilitation. Apart from a small plaque with gold letters carved into a piece of black stone, there is a sculpture made from six wooden railway sleepers.

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

They stand vertically in a circle. Each one is supposed to represent one of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. And, each one has a single name carved on it. These six names are the first names of the six offenders who created this moving memorial. Behind that at the edge of the garden furthest away from the Castle, there is another sculpture (by Paul Margetts and Claudia Holder) representing prison bars and barbed wire.

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance sculpture

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance sculpture

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

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: information notice

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: information notice

Remembering the Holocaust in Haringey remains copyright of the author ADAMYAMEY, a member of the travel community Travellerspoint.

Post tags: london poland holocaust harringey

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Published on May 06, 2017 02:53 • 3 views

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

In the grounds of Bruce Castle, about which I will write in the future, there is a small fenced-off Garden of Remembrance. It is an attractively designed memorial to the victims of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi Germans and their sympathisers.

The garden was created by young offenders as part of their rehabilitation. Apart from a small plaque with gold letters carved into a piece of black stone, there is a sculpture made from six wooden railway sleepers.

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

They stand vertically in a circle. Each one is supposed to represent one of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. And, each one has a single name carved on it. These six names are the first names of the six offenders who created this moving memorial. Behind that at the edge of the garden furthest away from the Castle, there is another sculpture (by Paul Margetts and Claudia Holder) representing prison bars and barbed wire.

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance sculpture

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance sculpture

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

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: information notice

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: information notice

Remembering the Holocaust in Harringey remains copyright of the author ADAMYAMEY, a member of the travel community Travellerspoint.

Post tags: london poland holocaust harringey

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Published on May 06, 2017 02:53 • 4 views