On this page: Mildmay - Soho - Hackney - Kilburn - Chiswick - Woolwich and Somers Town
OCTOBER - Sadly, this was the last walk of 2010. We met at Liverpool Street and took the circle line to Euston Square we adjourned to Costa Coffee for refreshment to start us on our way. Our walk took us from the new back to the old, as you will read. Our first port of call was St Pancras New Church, opened in 1822, designed in the classical style with many features of ancient Greek architecture and costing a staggering £76,679 to build. Walking on along Euston Road we crossed to The Lodges, the only remaining features of the Euston Station complex, they once stood either side of the Doric Arch. Destinations can still be seen on the columns. Walking towards the modern station we saw the statue of Robert Stephenson, the railway pioneer and engineer of the London & Birmingham Line. Somers’ Town lies between St Pancras Station and the Hampstead Road, Crowdale Road to the north and Euston Road to the south. The land belonged to the Somers family, descendants of the 1st Baron of Evesham, Lord Chancellor in 1697. It was leased to a Frenchman who wanted to develop a pleasant suburban area but his plans failed and the area became working class and the home for crowds of poor émigrés from the French Revolution. In 1824 Charles Dickens had lodged in various streets in the area. Somers Town has been dominated by the railways and by the 1850s had become a slum with ill drained and poorly ventilated streets. The building of St Pancras station so close to Euston aggravated the situation. Anita guided us through the streets telling us of the history as we went. We turned into Mornington Crescent where Charles Dickens illustrator George Cruikshank lived. The Crescent of Georgian Town Houses was named after the Earl of Mornington, whose daughter Anne married the Hon Henry Fitzroy, brother of the 2nd Baron of Southampton. Respectable residences were built by Southampton Estates and occupied by many well known personalities, some connected to the Art world. Anita reminded us of the panel game Mornington Crescent featured by the BBC Radio 4 programme and hosted by Humphrey Lyttleton. We made a slight deviation to look at the building built as the Carreras Tobacco Factory in the late 1920s. Many of us remembered Craven A and the Black Cat brands. Anita gave us the history of the family and the business, which was most interesting. The building, itself, was an architectural gem. It was the first factory in Britain to use pre-stressed concrete technology and the first to use air conditioning and a dust extraction plant and the company was the first to provide a welfare scheme for its employees. With our present day knowledge of tobacco pollution this rather amused us. The decoration of black cats and the Egyptian influence made for a very spectacular building. The building is now home to companies in the advertising and media world. Back on track we made our way to the Lyttleton Arms, formerly the Southampton Arms, where we all enjoyed an excellent lunch. Resuming our walk and we stopped on the corner of Camden Road where a statue of Richard Cobden stood. He was responsible for the reform of the Corn Laws and his own business suffered because of his work on this. Opposite stood the Camden theatre where the last Goon Show was recorded in 1972. Walking on we eventually made our way to St Pancras Gardens which was originally the burial ground to St Pancreas Old Church. Many graves were disturbed when the railway to St Pancras was built but several notable tombs still remain. Our walk finished with a visit to the Church. Very different and much smaller than the new church where we started but nevertheless very pleasing and today a listed building. Our 2010 season of walks are over but for many of us it has been a revelation into the many green spaces of London and life beyond the main thoroughfares. The busiest streets have led us to oasis of calm and our thanks to Anita and Roger for seeking out the unusual and giving us some very enjoyable days. We look forward with anticipation to 2011. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)
SEPTEMBER - Travelling by train, Jubilee Line and the DLR to Woolwich Arsenal we then stopped for coffee at the The Great Harry (Weatherspoons) in Gordon Square. People have lived in Woolwich since the Iron Age and the Romans had a fort here. The name suggests it used to be a trading place for wool. Henry VIII initiated shipbuilding and later it became a military base. The dockyard closed in 1869 and the Royal Military Academy relocated to Sandhurst in 1947. We caught the Bus to Gunner Lane and then walked to the Royal Military Barracks, which is now a base for Infantry soldiers, and we were lucky enough to see several platoons of soldiers and their military band in full dress uniform as they prepared for a ceremony later in the day. We saw the ruins of the Royal Garrison Church, bombed in 1944 and now a memorial garden. Our next stop was the Church of St Peter the Apostle built for the rapidly expanding Catholic population on the site of a former Wesleyan chapel. Back in Gordon Square Anita told us that General Gordon was born in a house overlooking Woolwich Common, hence the name of the square. In the square was the Tram Shed built as an electricity station to generate power for the tramways and now an entertainment venue. The Woolwich Equitable building Society founded in 1847 in Powis Street had moved here to a very imposing building in 1935. We walked through the market, which had received its charter from the Crown in 1619. Originally at Market Hill it moved due to military expansion and has been flourishing in Beresford Square since 1888. The Beresford Gate in the square was built in 1829 and was the main entrance to the Arsenal site. The Bell Tower and Upper Storey were added later and have been separated in recent years by the A206. Crossing over into Dockyard Anita pointed out Verbruggens House built in 1772 for the master founders and the Guard House built in 1778 by Isaac Ashton for the Army who guarded the site until the 1880s. Further down was the Brass Foundry built in 1717 and the finest building on the site. It was erected for the founding of brass canons following a disastrous explosion, killing 17 people, at Bagley’s Foundry in Moorfields. Opposite was Dial Square originally known as The Great Pile built in 1717-1720.It housed turning, washing and engraving workshops. One of the workshops converted to a pub called the Dial Arch was a welcome stop for lunch. Arsenal Football Club founded by workers in 1886 used to be called Dial Square, then Royal Arsenal and Woolwich Arsenal in 1891. After moving to Highbury it dropped the Woolwich prefix. After enjoying our break we explored the Heritage site. We saw the Royal Laboratory Pavilions and the Paper Cartridge Factory now home to the main exhibition of Fire Power, the museum of the Royal Artillery, To finish our walk we strolled back along the Riverside Wall and Gardens to the Woolwich Ferry. Fortunately the weather was lovely and so we did not have to use the foot tunnel built in 1912 as an alternative river crossing when wind, fog or smog prevented the ferry running. It was a most interesting day and Anita and Roger’s research into the area to provide us with so much information was much appreciated. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)
AUGUST - We met as usual at Liverpool Street Station and then travelled by two Underground trains to our coffee stop at Turnham Green station. From there we caught the E3 bus to the Chiswick Tennis Club and walked forward to the Burlington Lane Gate entrance to Chiswick House and gardens. The garden was the birthplace of the English Landscape movement and is now managed by the English Heritage Trust. After years of fund raising and with the help of lottery grants work was started to restore the house and garden to its original splendour. It is still work in progress. Chiswick House was built between 1726 and 1729, designed by Richard Boyle, third Earl of Burlington with the help of his protégé and friend William Kent, garden designer, painter and architect. Kent hade a pictorial approach to the design seeing the gardens as semi-naturalistic pictures similar to the paintings of 17th century artists. Running through the gardens was the Bollo brook, which was widened and turned into a canal and then into a naturalistic lake. Across the lake we could see an Ionic Temple under restoration. We crossed the bridge built for the 5th Duke of Devonshire in 1774 to replace the original wooden bridge attributed to James Wyatt. In front of the temple is the Orange Tree garden in the shape of an amphitheatre where orange trees were planted in tubs. A lawn lined by alternating cypress trees and stone urns was enclosed by a yew hedge which formed a backdrop to Lord Burlington’s collection of Roman and 18th century Sculptures. We saw the Patte d’oie (French for goose foot) three avenues laid out like a webbed foot each terminating in a small building. We passed the Doric column, thought to have been designed by Lord Burlington in 1720, to house his copy of the famous Venus de Medici statue in the Uffizi gallery in Florence. We turned left to the Italian Garden which when planted will be a glorious mass of colour, and the conservatory completed in 1811, which housed the largest collection of camellias outside of China and Japan. Through the Inigo Jones gate, in the Doric style, and donated by Sir Hans Sloane to Lord Burlington we made our way to the cafeteria for lunch. After lunch we walked up to the house where we met our charming guide for our tour of the house. He explained to us that the house was used solely for the displays of Lord Burlington’s collections. It had no domestic quarters or bedrooms but was linked to another plainer house by a walkway. Chiswick House had an extraordinary collection of paintings and artefacts. Our guide was most informative and shared his wealth of knowledge with us. It is well worth a visit as it is a visual feast and mere words would not do it justice. Our tour over we made our way back to Liverpool Street and the train home. Our day was made all the more special because Anita and Roger told us that this was the fifth year we had been doing our walks with them and that they had another special date coming up, their Golden Wedding. They had brought us to the house and gardens as their present to us, to celebrate this special occasion with them. We all give them our good wishes and love for the years still to come. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: Rosemary Morris)
JULY - We met at Stratford, took the North London Line to Brondesbury and then the bus to Kilburn High Road Station. First stop, as usual, was for coffee at La Dolce Vita. On the wall opposite was a plaque for Kilburn Wells depicting that the area had been an old Spa. In 1774 the landlord of the Old Bell used to sell flasks of the old spring water, which was noted for its medicinal properties. The property above the shops showed signs of quality building and in the 19th Century after the arrival of the railways the area developed rapidly. Kilburn High Road runs along the Old Watling Street built by the Romans as a route from London to Chester. Plaques in the pavement now depict this. The shops today are a poor substitute for those of the past, which included a department Store and a “High Class” Sainsbury’s. Leaving the High Road we meandered into the residential area via West End Lane, passing the now closed Bird in Hand Pub which had a plaque in the wall marking the level of a flood in 1975 when the Kilburn Stream overflowed in a freak storm. This lost river is now part of the local sewerage system. Queen Victoria is said to have been driven this way to enjoy the fresh air on Hampstead Heath. We walked past the site of Kilburn Priory and the street names are all that remain to remind us. A left turn took us into Quex Road named after a house belonging to the Powell-Cotton family in Kent. Anita told us of the late Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton who was a natural historian and the specimens, he collected on his travels before the war, are now being used in current research.
We looked into the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic church but could not stay as they were preparing for a military funeral. This area had a high Irish population and became known as County Kilburn. 1n the 1960s the church had over 10,000 worshippers and 18 masses were held every Sunday. Evidence of the Irish population is still evident today from the local newsagents displays. Anita pointed out to us the former home of Ken Livingstone during the 1980s, and we passed the very busy Kingsgate Community Centre with its innovative Latin American café. The Kingsgate workshop opposite focussed on Community Arts & Crafts. We then walked through Kilburn Grange Park formerly the grounds of The Grange, which had come up for sale in 1911 and bought by the LCC to preserve the open space in the area. The park had an outdoor gym and some of us had to have a go. Fortunately we did not need the services of Dr Harry as we came away unscathed.
Lunch was enjoyed in the Tricycle Theatre café. The theatre has a reputation for presenting groundbreaking work and presenting plays, which reflect the cultural diversity of the community. They often transfer to the West End. Many have been broadcast on Radio 4. Some of our walkers were patrons of the theatre. Suitably refreshed and rested we continued our walk down the High Road before turning into Iverson Road and going under the Jubilee line bridge. Here the housing was smaller and by 1898 many had become more like lodging houses. The houses differed in style and at No 77 had lived Alfred Harmsworth, the future Lord Northcliffe and founder of the Daily Mail. Anita told us how he had started his career as journalist on a cycling magazine.
We had now walked into West Hampstead and Anita guided us to Maygrove Park laid out in former very busy Midland Railway sidings. Thomas Brassey, a Midland Railway personality, was responsible for 1 in 3 miles of all track laid during his lifetime and was the first man to have the vision of a Channel tunnel connecting us to France. A road, locally, was named after him. The path in the park had quotations carved in stone and slate, on the theme of Peace, from such people as Albert Einstein and John Lennon. Our walk finished by the Anthony Gormley bronze sculpture called The Listening Figure. We returned to Shenfield via Overground and Stratford to find we had missed a cloudburst - once again the weather was on our side. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)
JUNE - We travelled by train via Stratford and overground to our first stop for coffee next to the Hackney Library. We then went into the museum in the library, which was nostalgic for most of us. It was charming, depicting the history of the Borough right up to date. Anita had earlier given us a potted history of Hackney and how it had been formed from 12 hamlets in the area. The first Hackney cab (named after the village) appeared in 1862 and they ceased to run in 1947. We visited the Art Nouveau Town Hall, and then proceeded via the back of Hackney Empire into Sylvester Path, an old sheep droving road. Walking on we stopped by the St Augustine’s Tower, all that remains of the 16th century church, which replaced the one built in the 13th century by the Knights Templar. As we walked through the old churchyard we were amazed to see the many headstones, which have been re-sited by the perimeter walls – quite an impressive sight. There were also many chest tombs indicating the wealth and prosperity of the area in the past. One such tomb belonged to Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort who was creator of The Beaufort Scale. His charts are still used today.
We then visited the Parish Church of today, St John’s Hackney. We were lucky enough to meet the Curate who gave us a brief history of the church and sang to enable us to appreciate the very fine acoustics. A lady parishioner also told us of the rebuilding after the fire in 1955 and pointed out some fine tapestry altar hangings, that had been used at the Queen’s coronation in 1953, and had been given to the church as a replacement for fire damage. The organ here had also provided the music for the film "Four Weddings and a Funeral".
On leaving Anita pointed out to us the tomb of Conrad Loddiges and his son George. George was responsible for the introduction to this country of the mauve rhododendron and wisteria. Both father and son were renowned horticulturists. Charles Darwin visited the nursery and saw their vast collection of roses, which he greatly admired. The nursery closed in 1854 when the lease ran out.
Our walk took us through little squares and terraces and one could see what an elegant area this had once been. In one cottage lived Louisa Perina Courtauld, a designer of gold plate, whose son Samuel founded the Courtauld dynasty. We saw the Sutton Square housing development on the site of an old metal box factory and also Sutton House owned by the National Trust, which looked worthy of another visit.
Lunch was taken at The Duke of Wellington, which looked a rather uninspiring pub, but the baguettes were certainly fresh - from the baker’s across the road - we watched them being brought in! Next to the pub was The Burberry factory shop but we all resisted temptation and walked on to The Paragon, an elegant terrace of houses with a Greek key design on the stuccoed fronts and fancy fanlights, built by Robert Collins. It has been restored by a housing association. In St Thomas’s Square Anita told us about Cordwainers College which is now a hall of residence for the London School of Fashion and of Richard Price whose work on life expectancy was the origin of the pension schemes we all benefit from today.
Anita’s timing was as usual impeccable and we arrived at the bus stop for Liverpool Street just as the first drops of rain fell. Dry and happy we reflected on another good day with our group. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)
MAY - Our second walk of 2010 took us to the Soho area on a bright but cold day. Coffee, etc, at the Caffe Nero fortified us after our journey and we made our way to Leicester Square gardens. We were amused to see four painted elephants at each corner. There are 250 placed around the Capital by The Elephant Family, a charity to bring awareness to the plight of the Indian Elephant. Anita gave us an insight into Soho’s history from its time as grazing land and development by various wealthy land owners. Although many fine houses were built the area never became as fashionable as its neighbours Mayfair and Bloomsbury. Immigrants had come to the area and The French Church in the square was founded by French Huguenots in the 17th and 18th centuries. By the mid 1980s respectability had moved out to be replaced by a seamier side of life. Prostitutes, music halls and small theatres moved in and foreign nationals opened eating places and they became fashionable for the intellectuals and arty communities of London. Before we left the square Anita pointed out various statues, including Charlie Chaplin and Isaac Newton, and plaques denoting mileages to many overseas locations. On leaving the gardens we saw the hand prints of many theatrical folk in the pavement. We then began a tour of the streets stopping periodically for Anita to tell us of the many references to Soho in literature and of the famous residents, two of whom were Karl Marx and Mary Seacole, a Jamaican nurse who had served in the Crimean War. China Town with its restaurants and supermarket was interesting and the many colourful pubs all had a story attached. “The Crown and Two Chairmen” was named because Queen Anne used to visit Soho in her Sedan Chair. On a more macabre note “The Admiral Duncan” was the site of the 1999 nail-bombing. A visit to Soho must include the “sex industry” but we only walked through the area stopping at the site of Raymond’s Revue Bar. Raymond had become very wealthy from his property purchases in the area and on his death his fortune went into a Trust. Anita had recently read of his granddaughter Fawn who, now a wealthy young woman, was devoting her life to charitable activities. We can only hope that her grandfather’s wealth now helps redress the balance for those not as fortunate as himself. In contrast we also visited St Anne’s Church the churchyard of which is a peaceful haven created by the Soho Housing Association. The lovely flowers and grass created an oasis of calm which is enjoyed by many who work in the vicinity. After a break for lunch we resumed walking for about an hour before catching the bus back to Liverpool Street, a tired but happy U3A group who had had a very interesting day. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)
MARCH - The Mildmay district of Islington was developed in the 1850s. The building of the railways with its attendant work force attracted a great deal of missionary work in the area. In addition to their religious emphasis the missions played a significant role in education and social welfare. Newington Green, at the heart of Mildmay, was originally part of the Forest of Middlesex and probably a medieval settlement. By the16th century its residents were wealthy Londoners looking for a country retreat. Amongst them were the Earl of Northumberland and Henry Percy who left his home to Henry VIII which accounts for many local street names. The Mildmay family descended from Thomas Mildmay the son of a market stallholder in Chelmsford in 1506. The family increased in wealth and status and influence during the 16th and 17th centuries and eventually one Henry Mildmay married Ann Haliday the daughter of Alderman William Haliday who owned a house and 44 acres of land on the south side of Newington Green. Henry Mildmay was one of the judges at the trial of Charles I but after the monarchy was restored under Chares II in 1660 Henry’s fortunes changed and after imprisonment in the Tower for treason he was deported but died in Antwerp en route to Tangiers. (Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Harry Dennehy)