On this page: King's Cross/St Pancras - Clerkenwell - Hoxton - Belize Park Area - Highgate - Battersea Park - Bloomsbury and the British Library - Chelsea - Dr Johnson's House
DR JOHNSON'S HOUSE
november - No report. (Photos: Harry Dennehy)
October - A beautiful autumn day made our last walk this year so very enjoyable. We had coffee in the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square and refreshed after our journey we began our walk. Sloane Square was named after Sir Hans Sloane and Anita told us of his connections with the area. Our next stop was to admire the Royal Coat of Arms that depicted the warrants that had been awarded to the General Trading Company. We learnt of the connection between Peter Jones and John Lewis’s and how John Lewis had bought the store, reputedly for cash, when Peter Jones had fallen on hard times. Residents of the area included Thomas Carlyle, Tobias Smellett, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Eliot and Whistler to name but a few and nearly every street carried a blue plaque. None of these people had lived in one of the smallest house in London which intrigued us. We visited St Luke’s church where they have many memorials to the Punjab Frontier Force and where Charles Dickens was married.We marvelled at the property and the prices they are fetching - £13,000 per week to rent a rather palatial apartment in this area. We walked through the area of Chelsea Farmers Market with its many little craft shops and some of us sneaked a quick look inside the Chelsea Garden Centre. Lunch was enjoyed at The Cadogan Arms where we had an area to ourselves. After lunch we visited Chelsea Old Church which had been heavily bombed in 1941. Restoration has now taken place incorporating as much as was possible of the original church, which had probably stood on the site since Christianity came to England. Connections here again with Sir Thomas More and the Sloane family. From here we strolled back to the Royal Chelsea Hospital where we met several of the Pensioners. The gardens were lovely and the chapel well worth seeing. Then back to Sloane Square and the journey home after a delightful day. We have four months now to catch up on other things but we all look forward to 2009 when we are sure Anita and Roger will have more interesting walks planned for us. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos John Franey)
Bloomsbury and the British Library
SEPTEMBER - Anita took us to the Bloomsbury area which is home to many educational and medical establishments. The headquarters of the BMA, University College Hospital and the University of London with its many colleges are all here. Notable residents included Virginia Woolf, her sister the artist Vanessa Bell, the Economist Maynard Keynes, and Charles Dickens to name but a few. The Peace Park in Tavistock Square enchanted us all. The central monument was to Mahatma Ghandi erected in 1968. Another monument erected in 1995 was to the Conscientious Objectors who opposed war and killing.A cherry tree had been planted to commemorate the victims of the Hiroshima tragedy. In the corner stood a memorial to Louisa Aldrich-Blake who was the first woman to obtain a Master’s degree in surgery. She became senior surgeon at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in 1910. The architecture in the area was interesting and there was something to see around every corner. Our lunch stop today was at The British Library. Refreshed and rested we then had a tour of the British Library organised again by Anita. We split into two groups and in turn were taken around the building and then to see some of the treasures housed there.
The library has tours, which are open to the general public, and we would urge all U3A members to visit sometime when they would be as fascinated as we had been. There are also exhibitions, which change every few months. Our visit finished about 3.30 pm and we all felt that once again Anita ably assisted by Roger had done us proud. (Report: Ann Franey)
AUGUST - August thirteenth saw us heading off to Battersea Park where we spent an interesting few hours. The weather was kind to us and as usual Anita had done her homework and uncovered some interesting facts. The park is home to some unusual trees and we visited the “Thrive” herb garden. Thrive is an organisation that helps people with both emotional and disability problems. Working in the garden can restore their self-confidence and teach them social skills which all go to help in their recovery. The people working there seemed to enjoy our visit as much as we did visiting them.We saw sculptures by Barbara Hepworh and Henry Moore and visited the Pump House art gallery. Anita told us of the duel between the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchelsea when both parties fired wide and honour was restored. We saw the bronze statue of a “Brown Dog”. This was a replica of a statue commemorating the riots against vivisection erected in 1906, destroyed in 1910 whence the present statue was erected in 1985. Highlight of the day was the Peace Pagoda situated overlooking the river opposite Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. A Buddhist monk lives in the park and at dawn he runs round the pagoda banging a drum to herald a new day.Views from this site overlooking the river were spectacular. Lunch was taken in the park café after which we strolled on before finishing the walk at some war memorials. Anita’s timing was perfect because as she came to the end of the walk the heavens opened and we were dashing for the bus back to the Tube. A different day to the usual walk but none the less enjoyable. (Report: Ann Franey)
JULY - Our previous walks in the
Highgate area had whetted our appetites to visit the Cemeteries but time had
never allowed. Anita therefore arranged a special visit with a guide for us.
We travelled from Shenfield by rail all the way to Gospel Oak and then took
the bus to Highgate. Our visit started at the West Cemetery, which cannot be
accessed by the general public. Our guide met us at 11.15 am and gave us a
short introduction. We were told that the cemetery is the only one run by a
voluntary society and the original West Cemetery was opened in 1839. We were
amazed at all the trees and wooded hillsides– it was like walking through
BELSIZE PARK AREA
JUNE - The walk began with coffee at the Magdala pub on South Hill Park, where the notorious Ruth Ellis shot her lover, an event that led to the last execution of a woman in this country. Anita then guided us through the many lovely streets and residential parts of the area. En route we learnt about some of the former famous residents including Alan Ayckbourn, Thomas Asquith and John Keats whose former home is now a museum. We stopped at St John’s on Downshire Hill, the only private chapel in the Diocese of London and the centre of an area where many exiled Continental artists who had left their homes at the start of WWI had settled. Henry Moore had a studio here and had upset the neighbours with his mother and child statue, which he had given to a fellow artist who displayed it in his front garden.
Walking on we passed St Stevens (1869 Grade I listed) on Rosslyn Hill, now being redeveloped as a Lifelong Learning Centre. On Lyndhurst Road a former Victorian Congregational (1884 Grade II listed) church is now home to Air Studios founded by George Martin of Beatle fame. On past the Olave Centre, the HQ of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Association. Anita told us of William Willett, a speculative builder in the area whose son, another William, had been the originator of "Daylight Saving" (Summertime) brought in at the beginning of WW1 to save coal. Belsize Crescent and Princess Mews delighted us and had some of us wishing for a lottery win. We passed the homes of Delius and Lytton Strachey, a member of the Bloomsbury set who had once foolishly proposed to Virginia Woolf. An old-fashioned chemist shop, Allchin & Co is now also the Post Office. John Franey told us about a post box which had no Royal cipher. They are known as "anonymous" boxes because of an error by the foundry that had omitted to add VR. when they were cast. Lunch was taken at the Washington pub. This was a delightful old hostelry built in 1865 by Daniel Tidey whose great grandsons had later approached the pub for bar work in 1978 only to discover the family connection. After lunch we meandered up Primrose Hill and admired the spectacular views over the city and surrounding area. Once again an interesting day in an area unfamiliar to most of us.
MAY - Our walk started at the Leysian Mission on Old Street. Anita explained the connections to John Wesley and the Methodist church and then Bob told of his schooldays at the Leys School in Cambridge. The Mission was started in 1886 by former boys of the Leys School who were concerned about the social and housing conditions in the East End. Bob recalled his memories of annual cricket matches between the two. From there we walked through the streets to our coffee stop in Hoxton Market Square. The square was home to Circus Space, a circus training school run in the old Shoreditch Refuse Destructor and Steam Generating Station (which as far back as 1896 produced electricity for the locality by burning refuse) and we were lucky enough to watch the acrobats and trapeze artistes training in the three storey generating hall. We were enthralled to learn that youngsters as young as two can attend acrobatic classes. We also heard of “Daddy” Burtt who in 1881 ran a café on the square where he fed the local poor children. From there we walked through the redeveloping area admiring some of the local architecture still left in situ. Anita told us of Robert Aske, a philanthropist who became a Master of the Haberdashers Livery Company and who in 1689 founded in Hoxton alms houses for twenty decrepit men and twenty poor sons of Freemen of the City of London. In nearby Haberdashers’ Street artisans houses have been sympathetically redeveloped into flats many of which were for sale. We saw the centre of the furniture making trade where the apparatus for lifting is still in existence – again an area ripe for change.
In Hoxton Square an interesting stop was made near St Monica’s church and school. Our Monica had been a teacher at the school in the 1960s and recounted how she used to take her baby to school where she was looked after by another Mum. She kept us amused with tales of taking the children out on expeditions etc. Anita told us of the different buildings in the square and one of the residents was James Parkinson who discovered the shaking palsy now called Parkinson’s disease.
Next stop was lunch at the Strongroom Pub which took its name from the local recording studios. Suitably refreshed we walked to the site of The Theatre in Curtain Road. Here Shakespeare had acted and when the building was demolished it’s timbers were taken across the river to be used in construction of the original Globe theatre. Our walk finished in Worship Street where five workshops were designed by Philip Webb, an associate of William Morris, for Colonel Gillum, another philanthropist of the day. Anita told us so much about the history of the area it is not possible to recount it all. Everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the walk and had appreciated the effort she and Roger had put into planning the day. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)
APRIL - A beautiful spring day added to our enjoyment of this most interesting walk. During coffee at Clerkenwell Green we spotted the sign for the Three Kings pub, which was most unusual. We did not recognise the kings but being U3A it did not take long for some clever people to work it out. Henry the Eighth, King Kong and Elvis Presley. Anita soon controlled our mirth and we then entered St James’ Church, which replaced St Mary’s nunnery in 1792. The church had some amazing stained glass windows and the superb organ and excellent acoustics make it a popular place for recordings. Anita then guided us around the surrounding streets pointing out many interesting facts especially about the Peabody Estates and House of Detention. The site had originally housed two prisons, which took the overflow from Bridewell and Newgate. From here many convicts were transported to America and Australia. A surprise to many of us was Exmouth Market, a major thoroughfare until the turn of the century. The Holy Redeemer Church was in the style of an Italian Renaissance basilica and the interior based on Santo Spirito in Florence. It had all the trappings of a Catholic church and we were surprised to discover it was High Anglican. The walk then took us past Finsbury Town Hall built in Flemish Renaissance style. Across the road was the former Family Records Centre which Peter Ely explained has moved to Kew with the overflow being kept in Sussex. He said it was a popular place for American visitors searching their family tree. We then went down Sekforde Street, passed the Finsbury Bank for Savings, a 19th century building used by Charles Dickens but now a private residence. Back on the Green we repaired to the Crown for lunch. In its heyday this had been a popular music hall and posters and memorabilia adorned the walls. Suitably fed and watered we then wandered through to St John’s square built around the Priory of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem and through St John’s Gate. We passed through Smithfield Market and Anita told us of the Castle pub, which was the only pub in London to have a pawn broking licence. It had been a fascinating day and we look forward to returning at a later date to discover more about the area around St John’s Square. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)
King's Cross/St Pancras
MARCH - The year kicked off with a visit to the St Pancras area with visits to both King's Cross and the recently refurbished St Pancras' stations. The area has changed completely since the early 1800s but there is still much of the old to see amongst the signs of regeneration.
After coffee in a smart restaurant with striking railway décor we first walked through “old” Kings Cross Station where the group photos were taken. Both Kings Cross and St. Pancras stations were built within 30 years of each other but with quite different approaches to their construction. Here the trains came into the station after going under the Regents Canal. Although both stations are of the same width, Kings Cross needed to have two arched spans each of 120ft (and of course in recent years there’s been the addition of a new platform – 9 ¾! ).
Walking beyond the Canal there was the vast area of the old marshalling yards, soon to be redeveloped; quite a few of the buildings are listed and, when completed, it is said the area will rival Canary Wharf in both size and splendour.
After lunch at The British Library we moved on to Old St. Pancras Church. Quite a lot of the churchyard was lost when St. Pancras Station was first built and the clearing was done in a very insensitive way. Thomas Hardy was an architectural apprentice here, helping restore some form of reverence to the dead, and it was probably as a result of this experience that his writings have a rather macabre streak. One of only two Grade I listed tombs is in the churchyard, that of Sir John Sloane; the memorial was used later as the design for the original telephone box developed by another member of the Sloane family.
Finally, we arrived at the revamped St. Pancras Station where the trains go over the Canal and stay at that higher level. The whole structure, with its 245ft single span roof, is supported by 800 wrought iron pillars; the undercroft originally provided storage for Burtons Beer barrels but is now transformed into a vast booking hall with shops and restaurants. The platform is now almost twice as long as the original to cater for Eurostar trains but they do put pressure on the other local transport facilities when they arrive and disgorge their hordes of passengers. Pictured below, members enjoyed Anita Butt's commentary as they look at the original structure of King's Cross station. (Report Anita and Roger Butt)