2019

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On this page: Three parks - Kings X - Regents Canal - Little Venice 2019 - Barbican 2019

 

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BARBICAN 2019

NOVEMBER - Our first stop, on Chiswell Street, was in the hotel forecourt of what was once Whitbread’s Brewery. Founded by Samuel Whitbread in 1750 the brewery rapidly became a vast operation and brewing continued here until 1976 when the last tanker pulled out on April 13 after 225 years. One of our group, Doreen Pasquali, was able to tell us about the time when she worked at the Brewery complex and a number of us who had also worked in the City could recall seeing the wonderful Dray horses pulling the huge barrels out of the Brewery to make deliveries to pubs in the area. Down the centuries George III and Queen Charlotte, Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth the Queen Mother all visited the site. The largest vaults once held the equivalent of 3,800 barrels of beer. Now an upmarket hotel, some features of the original complex, including the Porter Tun room with a 170 foot king post timber roof with an unsupported span of 65 feet, have been retained.

Skirting round the rear of the Barbican complex, from the Beech Street underpass, we followed Golden Lane, Cripplegate Street to Fann Street where the Jewin (Street) Welsh Presbyterian Chapel was rebuilt in 1960, replacing the original chapel destroyed in air raids in September 1940. The very first services in the chapel had taken place in 1774 when it was situated in Cock Lane, Smithfield. Due to a dramatic fall in the size of the congregation in 2013 Huw Edwards (BBC) led a campaign to save the chapel to keep the traditions of the London Welsh community alive. A plaque on the side of the chapel recalls the Huguenot fan makers who settled in the area and also the Worshipful Company of Fanmakers who had a hall here from the early 1700s.

At White Lyon Court we found a stone frieze commemorating the firm of W. Bryher & Sons, depicting the trade of gold refinery and assaying. The original building survived the incendiary bombs of December 1940 but was demolished in 1962 when the construction of the Barbican Estates began.

Climbing the slope past the rear of the Barbican Centre we found the remains of a 500 year old Beech tree from Burnham Beeches, the Mendelssohn Tree, where Mendelssohn used to sit for inspiration. The nearby plaque depicts some of the incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Here we paused to hear about the creation of the Barbican Estate, 50 years old this year. Barbican means fortress and the estate is built by London Wall and not far from the main fort of Roman London. Designed by architect firm of

Chamberlin, Powell & Bon in the Brutalist concrete style, their proposal to build a cluster of tower blocks that loomed over St Paul’s in the 1960s caused shock and horror for many Londoners at the time. How situations change – in 2001 the estate was granted Grade II Listed status and its popularity goes from strength to strength. It was built on a scary 40 acre bombsite on the fringes of the Square Mile, which I remember well from when I worked in Moorgate in the 1950s. There are 4,000 approx residents many of whom are happy to pay a hefty price to live within the Barbican’s boundaries. In 1969 it was a pioneer development offering a range of property sizes appealing to both singles and families. It had three of the tallest towers in London and 13 terrace blocks. The Barbican Centre, a cultural hub, came alive with art gallery shows, concerts. The Barbican also became home to the City of London School for Girls and the Guildhall School of Music (now joined by a more recent new school with its own concert hall on Silk Street).

The Barbican Concert Hall came later at a cost of £161 million (equivalent to £480 million in 2014) and was officially opened to the public by Queen Elizabeth II on 3 March 1982.

Critics complain that the estate is too big, too concrete and horrible to live in but residents say "They don’t get it- when you walk in the sound levels drop. It is quiet. You can hear the birds singing and it is not like anywhere else".

The flats are extremely well built and generous in scale with quality finishes. There was no scrimping – the window frames are solid teak. To make any major changes today would require listed building consent plus permission from the City of London. Of course it is not perfect and common criticism is that it is hard to navigate – even with a good sense of direction newcomers find it takes a while to navigate their way around it.

We then followed a number of the "High Walks" – John Trundle Highwalk, Seddon Highwalk, John Wesley Highwalk, through the buildings and catching glimpses of the three towers, the Ironmongers’ Hall and into the courtyard of the Museum of London. Here we could see the stone monument depicting the story of Emilio the Cretorian who apparently slew an ox with his fist and ate it up at one meal! It was difficult to make out the carving from a distance but Maddie Wilkinson quickly pointed out the huge mouth and eyes and the ox standing inside the mouth.

Passing a commemorative sculpture about John Wesley we took the Bastion Highwalk and looked down into the gardens of Barber Surgeons Hall and the remains of the Roman Bastion. Continuing on The Postern Highwalk to the Barbican Centre it was time for lunch in the canteen style restaurant in the Barbican complex overlooking the lake and the church of St Giles in the Fields (mentioned in the nursey rhyme Oranges and Lemons (Brickbats and Tiles say the bells of St Giles). Before leaving we took the lift to the third floor to see – from the outside - the huge conservatory which was built to hide the fly tower which raises the scenery of the Barbican Theatre. The Conservatory is open for afternoon teas on Sundays – need to book. We finished our walk along high walkways of the recently rebuilt office blocks along London Wall – all glass and light – a great contrast to the 1960s concrete Brutalist blocks we had been looking at all day.

(Report: to come, Photos: Maria Buckley)

 

 

1. Flats in Gilbert House with views over the lake and gardens


2. Ruins of Roman Barbican on London Wall


3. Emilio the Cretorian - decorative panel in the courtyard of the Museum of London


4.Ironmongers' Hall


5. & 6. The yard of Whitbread's Brewery - now a hotel complex

7. Barbican Tower block


8. Remnant of the Mendelssohn Tree - a 500 year old Beech Tree


9. Frieze depicting the gold refiners trade

 

10. Plaque in Fann Street where the Huguenot Fanmnakers had their Hall in the 1700s


11.  & 12. Whitbread's Brewery

13. St Giles Cripplegate

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LITTLE VENICE 2019

OCTOBER - As we came out of the new stylish rear exit to Paddington Station we were greeted by a row of highly decorated barges housing restaurants and bars along the towpath leading to Paddington Lock Basin and Little Venice. The whole area has been redeveloped with apartments and office blocks around Sheldon Square Amphitheatre. The area named Little Venice is where the most western part of the Regent’s Canal meets the Grand Union Canal and the Paddington Basin. The Regent’s Canal starts at Warwick Avenue Road Bridge and was built to allow onward travel to line with the River Thames at Limehouse.

Two over-life sized bronze statues – Walking Man and Standing Man by Sean Henry held our attention.

The poet Robert Browning (1812-1889) lived nearby in Warwick Crescent overlooking this part of the canal which was then known as the Broadwater. It is now called Browning’s Pool. When his beloved wife Elizabeth Barrett died in Italy in 1861 Browning returned to London where he stayed until 1887. He then went back to Venice where

he died 2 years later. It may be a myth but some say that’s how the area became known as ‘Little Venice’.

We left the canal-side for a while to skirt the Maida Hill Tunnel. 270 yards long the bargees had to lie on their backs on the cabin roof and haul their way through the tunnel using their legs. This is where we get the term ‘legging it’ from. The tunnel is said to have wrecked Thomas Lord’s plans for his original cricket ground. The canal company compensated him £4,000 to move the ground 500m northwest. The ‘new ground’ opened in 1814 and he used some of the excavated soil on his "Lord’s Cricket Ground".

We passed Crocker’s Folly a very fine looking Victorian hotel built by Frank Crocker who though he could cash in on trade from the planned nearby terminus of the Grand Central Railway. No expense was spared but unfortunately the railway’s route was changed, the hotel failed, and the name was changed to Crocker’s Folly. Today the Grade II listed building houses a Lebanese restaurant.

The footpath look us along by the Lisson Grove Moorings where a very large number of barges are

permanently moored. Arriving at Regent’s Park we set

off to walk the part of the park we did not cover on our Regent’s Canal Walk. It is the largest of central London’s free Royal Parks and was created for the Prince Regent, George IV, in the early 19c. It has both an Outer and Inner ring road all set within terraces of Georgian houses. The Inner Circle has 34 Wildlife and Waterfowl Centre, and the Hub Sports Centre. The largest outdoor sports facility in London with underground changing rooms and Pitches for football, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, softball and cricket.

On the Outer Ring Road we were close to some parts of London Zoo; the world’s oldest scientific zoo, housing over 700 species.

Following a leisurely lunch in the Broadwalk Café we crossed into the Queen Mary Rose Garden – 12,000 roses including 85 beds containing single varieties. After admiring the Japanese Garden we left the park through the gates commemorating the Silver Jubilee of King George V and the official opening of the formal gardens in 1935.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

 

Decorated barge at Paddington Basin

Walking Man and . . .

Standing Man very large bronze statues by Sean Henry

A useful 'pod' - vacant at the moment


Floating barge classroom

Browning's Pool  Little Venice

Browning's Pool  Little Venice

Browning's Pool  Little Venice

After lunch in Regent's Park

 

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REGENTS CANAL

 

SEPTEMBER - We walked down York Way which runs alongside Kings Cross Station and looked over into the back of the original station. In the newly developed KX King’s Cross site, which we explored fully last April, we passed through Granary Square where the original Granary Building, designed by Lewis Cubitt in 1852, as a store for wheat brought into King’s Cross by train and then distributed by horse and cart to local bakers, is now home to the Central and St Martin’s College of Art and the courtyard has an array of bright fountains. Dropping down in to what were once the yards for dropping off of coal and other goods we passed the reconstructed Gas Holders which now surround up market apartments with gym, pool and roof gardens.

On the opposite bank Camley Street Nature Park – a green area for local children created on what was once a coal dump is being recreated with a visitors’ centre and a new footbridge over the canal. It has been closed during the redevelopment of KX but with a good grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund it is hoping to be re-opened in 2020 and be a better than ever green space in a very busy part of London.

Dropping down onto the Regent’s Canal at St Pancras Lock and Basin we set off along the towpath, passing numerous locks and mooring places and previous industrial sites now sporting blocks of flats along the canal. We left the canal side briefly to walk up through Camden Market with its many interesting food stalls producing tempting smells but we couldn’t stop to try their wares.

We passed splendid Victorian houses their rear gardens sloping down to the canal. John Nash (1752-1835 designer of Buckingham Palace, The Mall etc) had plans to build an upmarket garden estate on what had been Henry VIII’s Hunting Ground of Marylebone Park. He was also an investor in the new canal which was needed to bring basic goods, coals etc into the heart of London.

By having the canal just outside the developed area and at a lower level its ‘dirty’ cargoes could not be seen from the elegant houses backing onto the canal. The Prince Regent, later King George IV, gave his name to both park and canal.

After a couple of miles we began to catch glimpses of London Zoo. Laid out by Decimus Burton in 1827 it is the world’s oldest zoo and didn’t admit the public until 1874. In recent years some larger animals have been moved to the zoo’s sister site at Whipsnade in Bedfordshire. There are currently plans in hand to reconfigure and improve the The Aviary, originally designed by Lord Snowdon in 1961. Midway through the park we passed under Macclesfield Bridge with Doric columns, also known as the ‘blow up bridge’. It is a replica of a bridge blown up in 1874 when a barge carrying a cargo of gunpowder bound for the Midlands exploded here, killing 3 men and a horse, demolishing several houses. The canal was repaired and back in use within five days. We passed under several road, and rail bridges and one where the pillars have grooves on them created by the wet ropes where horses and bargees hauled the barges around slight bends in the canal.

Admiring a number of splendid mansions in Regent’s Park on the opposite side of the canal, including the home of the US Ambassador to the UK, we left the towpath and walked up into Regent’s Park, passing the Regent’s Park Mosque for lunch in the Boathouse Café. Making our way to Baker Street Station we passed the boating lake where the ice on the lake gave way in 1867, plunging 100 skaters into the freezing water. Bystanders tore branches off trees and launched boats in and desperate rescue attempt but 40 people lost their lives. To prevent a similar accident happening again, the 12ft deep lake was drained and filled with soil and concrete reducing its depth to the current 4ft.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

 

 

TOP ROW

Left to right:

The back of the original Kings Cross Station

The Granary Building - now Central & St Martins College of Art
Looking into the original Coal Drops Yard

 

MIDDLE ROW

Left to right:

Gas holders - restored, re-positioned with luxury flats

Victorian Water Tower

Two photos of St Pancras Lock

 

BOTTOM ROW

Left to  right:

Gas Holder Garden

Entry to London Zoo from the canal

All together again

 

 

 

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KINGS X

 

APRIL - We began with coffee in the stunning foyer of King’s Place, a relatively new concert hall, exhibition and education venue, opened in 2008 and housed in the building which is also home to the The Guardian and Observer newspapers. From the terrace at King’s Place it was possible to see both the Regent’s Canal mooring basin and the canal proper. Crossing into the newly developed KX (King’s Cross) area we reached Granary Square with its 1,000 choreographed fountains. The old Granary building designed by Lewis Cubitt in 1852 has been beautifully restored and is now the new home of the Central Saint Martin’s School of Art. It is possible to walk through the huge warehouse and we tried to imagine what it was like when it full of dusty bags of grain and flour.

King’s Cross was once a village called Battle Bridge and became King’s Cross when a memorial to King George IV was erected at the junction with Euston Road and Grays Inn Road in 1836. With the building of King’s Cross station (1852) and St Pancras (1870s) and the construction of the Regent’s Canal the whole area was dominated by transport, haulage and commerce. The trains into King’s Cross approached through tunnels under the Regent’s Canal with a steep descent and the area north of the station was used to tip out the coal that came down from the mines of northern England, before being distributed by horse drawn carts. The later construction of St Pancras station brought the trains over the canal. Barrels of beer from the breweries of Burton Trent were stored beneath platform level before being taken by horse and cart to the many London pubs.

In the redevelopment the old Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross has been transformed into a two storey area of boutique shops and upmarket restaurants. With the coming of the rail-

ways coal from mines in Yorkshire and the north of England could reach London in a

matter of hours; previously it had required hazardous journeys in "colliers" down the North Sea coast or a journey of several weeks by canal. The first supply of coal to London via rail was made in 1845. Advertisements at the time confirmed that customers could "send their own wagons and sacks, pay cash on order, or on delivery, the coals being the produce of the best pits in the South Yorkshire Coal Fields, of good quality and large size…." Many hundreds of horses were used in transporting the coal and stabling, under the supervision of a capable horse master, was eventually provided to improve the welfare of the horses.

Gas holders were constructed in the 1850s and these were in use until decommissioned in 2000. These gas holders have now been dismantled, taken bit by it to Shepley Engineers in Yorkshire for cleaning and rebuilt in 2013. Luxury flats have now been built inside the holders with one of them becoming a garden with reflective features.

We finished with a return visit to the Eurostar platforms at St Pancras and ended the walk under the new "diagrid" roof over the concourse at King’s Cross. This is part of a £500m redevelopment and spans 150metres with not one visible bolt in the entire structure. Designed to cover the largest area without the need for supporting columns in the middle, this vast bright space is ‘the head of the matchstick’ the engineers explain – the steel piles underpinning the visible lattice are driven 50metres into the ground.

Schoolchildren were queueing at Platform 93/4 (nine and three-quarters) for the train to Hogwart’s. We returned to the humdrum Metropolitan Line for the journey home.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

 

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1 Regent's Canal Basin from King's Place Concert Hall.

2 Luxury apartments constructed within reconstructed 19c gas holders - now Grade II listed.

3 Barges moored on Regent's Canal Basin

4 The wow factor.  Part of the new 'diagrid' roof over the concourse at King's Cross station. A span of

   150 metres with not one visible bolt in the entire structure.

5 No 3 gas holder with landscaped gardens and reflective features.

6 The 19c Granary Building

7 Scale of model of the redeveloped Coal Drops Yard.

8 Henry Moore ' Spindle' sculpture 1974 outside Kings Cross Station

9 Regent's Canal Basin

10 St Martins College of Art now located in redeveloped Granary Building

11 Water feature in Granary Court

12 "Down" to exciting shopping experience in Coal Drops Yard

13 External walls of Coal Drop Yard

14 New pupils for Hogwarts looking for Platform 9 3/4 (nine and three-quarters)

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THREE PARKS

 

MARCH - On a very blustery morning we set off to walk from Westfield, at Stratford through the Queen Elizabeth II Park towards Hackney Wick. We noted the 23 ton bell cast for the Olympic Games in 2012 now sited permanently in the park. The landscaped banks of the River Lea were looking very good with tall clumps of reeds blowing in the sunshine. Cutting down beside the Copper Box stadium, now used for basketball, netball, dance and exercise events, we soon hit the old industrial area of Hackney Wick. The area is slowly being redeveloped. Old canal-side warehouses and bars covered with lively ‘street art’ are giving way to new flats and offices.

Ghosts of some of the earlier factories here can still be found including, Lesney (Matchbox Toys), Clarnico sweet factory, Achille Serre who introduced dry cleaning to the UK, Eugene Carless, oil distilling and refining business from 1859

who invented the brand name ‘petrol’, and wonder of wonders, apparently perforated toilet rolls were first invented here.

Crossing the footbridge over the A12 we entered Victoria Park where many local school children were playing football. Two stone alcoves from the original medieval London Bridge were given to the park when a new London Bridge, designed by John Rennie, opened in 1831. There were fourteen of these alcoves on the original bridge. In turn, John Rennie’s bridge was sold to the McCullough Oil company in the United States in the 1968s for $2,460,000, dismantled, shipped to California via the Panama Canal and reassembled in Lake Havisu in Arizona where it has become a popular visitor attraction. The current London Bridge opened in 1973.

Passing the interesting children’s paddling pool (dry for winter) we found lake used by the Victoria Model Steam

 Boat Club, founded in 1904 and still active today. A stunning Victorian drinking fountain given by Angela Burdett-Coutts the Victorian philanthropist in 1982 has been restored as part of a £14 million Lottery Fund refurbishment of the park in 2010 and new decorative pools created around it. Crossing the rustic bridge we passed the Chinese Pagoda, destroyed with much of the west park during WWII, but recreated by the use of eye-witness information and many pre-war photographs.

Dropping down on the towpath of the Regents Canal we followed it all the way to Mile End diverting through the park to cross the pedestrian bridge built over the road in 2000. On the way we were able to pick out some features and buildings that we regularly see from the train windows on our journeys to and from Liverpool Street.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

 

Top (l to r) Info re stone alcoves from the medieval London bridge.

Sheltering from the gales.

I think we are going to need a bigger alcove.

Bow Heritage Trail marker.

 

Bottom (l to r) Strange bronze figure in the children's padding pool - not in this weather though

Model boating lake created in 1904 still used today for model regattas.

Another view of the model lake.

Angela Burdett-Couts drinking fountain 1862. .

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