London Walks - 2011

Go To Brentwood U3A Home Page
Back to all London Walks
On this page: The Wobbly Bridge - Holborn Viaduct to St Brides - Notting Hill (S) - Holland Park - West Smithfield and Charterhouse - Bromley by Bow
We met at Stratford station and took the DLR to Pudding Mill Lane where we followed the directions to the Vue Tube for coffee. This was overlooking the 2012 Olympic Site. It is very well done with much information for the visitor. Anita told us about the Sculptor Anish Kapoor and Architect-Engineer-Designer Cecil Balmond. They are responsible for “The Orbit”, which is causing something of a talking point.  Costing £22.7 million pounds the Sculpture is created of steel and will have a viewing platform and restaurant on the top. The bulk of the cost is being provided by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal as a way of giving something back to this country he now regards as home. The colour is described as “blood sausage red”. We then took the tube back to Bow Church and continued our walk towards Stratford. Bromley-by-Bow was originally a tiny hamlet on the River Lea. Having grown considerably the area suffered devastation in World War II and much regeneration has taken place. At the Bow Bells pub we turned off the main road and came to a Chapel and four Alms-houses dating from 1706 and Anita explained the story behind them. We walked over what was once a green (hard to imagine) and on to St Leonards Church gateway, all that remains of the 19th C parish church. Walking on we came to Bruce Road Church with mosaics on the wall, this church is now an arts centre. In the garden in front is a charming sculpture of a nun with her fingers in her ears trying to block the sounds of the industry all around her. Anita led us to Bob’s Park named after the gardener who had looked after the recreation ground in Bromley for many years. We saw several sculptures by Paula Haughney, made to appeal to children. In the park was the meandering Aquatic Path made of cobbles and set with blue glass squares with pictures of flora and fauna found in a stream. She had also made The Lord Mayor’s Dragon, a friendly serpent with a trough down its back designed to fill with water after rain. What better place to stop for our last group photo of this year. Walking out of the park we came to the Peace Garden. The Peace Gateway is the entrance to Kingsley Hall, founded by the Lester sisters. Their father Henry was greatly influenced by Socialism and he named his son Kingsley after Charles Kingsley. Kinglsey Lester died at the age of 26 and his sisters, with support from their father, bought a disused chapel in his memory and the first Kingsley Hall was opened. Muriel had visited India in 1926 where she struck up a friendship with Mahatma Ghandi and when he visited England he made Kingsley Hall his base. The hall was used in the making of the film Ghandi. Currently it is the offices of the Ghandi Foundation. Close by was The Children's House which is a nursery school also founded by the sisters in 1912 connected with their work at Kingsley House. This building was opened by H G Wells in 1912 as the blue plaque shows. Lunch was next at the Bow Bells. The pub has recently been taken over by a young man who is trying to recreate an old East End Pub. The food was good and they were very accommodating. We were amused by the signs depicting cockney rhyming slang. After lunch we wandered up the road and looked at Gladstone’s statue by Albert Bruce-Joy. This statue of the former Liberal leader was donated by the founder of the Bryant & May factory. At the time the factory was notorious for the number of women workers who were disfigured or died of “phossy jaw”, poisoning from the white phosphorous used in the matches they were making. The hands of the statue had been painted red because of the blood of so many workers on the hands of the donor. St Mary’s Church in the middle of the road has parts going back to the fourteenth century. It was built to make life easier for local residents who otherwise would have had to walk to St Dunstan’s in Stepney. The bell tower, damaged in the war, has now been repaired. The great bell of Bow was featured in the rhyme Oranges and Lemons. The area also has links with the Suffragette movement. Back to the tube station looking at the former Poplar Town Hall, which has five representations of workers, who built it, incorporated in the stone work. Anita also pointed out Fairfield Road where the annual Bow Fair used to be held. This was originally the May Fair moved by the Earl of Coventry when it got out of hand in Mayfair. Another season of walks over and we all owe Anita and Roger a great big vote of thanks for keeping our interest alive during the many varied and interesting walks that we made in 2011.  Roll on next year! (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)

Top left: Plan of the Olympic site

Top centre: The Orbit

Top right: The Nun

Above left: The Vue cafe

Above centre: Group photo

Above right: Group photo

Left: Drapers' Company almshouses

Right: Ghandi sculpture in Kingsley Hall

Below left: Gladstone

Below centre: The Bow Bells

Below right: Inside the pub



West Smithfield and visit to Charterhouse

SEPTEMBER - We started our walk by the first drinking fountain in London at the corner of Giltspur Street and Holborn Viaduct. Behind this was St Sepulchre without Newgate – the largest parish church in the city. This church with its connections to Newgate prison has the bells that became "The Bells of Old Bailey" referred to in the rhyme "Oranges and Lemons". After passing The Old Watch House and Cock Lane, the only street in London once licensed for prostitutes, our next stop was by the Fat Golden Cherub which marked the westernmost extent of the Great Fire of London. Anita told us the story and also pointed out that it was also the site of The Fortunes of War pub, where corpses were sold to the anatomists at Bart’s Hospital for their research. Coffee time was in the crypt of St Bartholomew the Great - the finest Norman church left in London and used in films such as "Four Weddings and a Funeral" among others. Almost opposite was the memorial to William Wallace ("Braveheart") the Scottish freedom fighter. This walk was turning into one of our goriest as Anita recalled tales of executions that had taken place in the area. We wandered into the courtyard of Bart’s Hospital which had been founded as a priory/hospital by Rahere, once a jester in the court of King Henry I who, after contracting malaria on a pilgrimage to Rome, had a visitation from St Bartholomew telling him to found a priory. He vowed to do this and there followed a miraculous recovery and on his return he was given the strip of land in Smithfield by King Henry. We then heard about the early years of the hospital up until the present day where it is now a leading cancer and cardiac centre. Leaving the hospital we heard more tales of the area's gory past before arriving at the present day meat market. The changes here over the years were visible and the wrought iron work a pleasure to see. Long gone were the days recounted by Dickens in "Great Expectations" who described it as a “shameful place being all asmear with filth, fat, blood and foam”. In the mid 1800s cattle were still being driven through the streets and slaughtered in the market, blood flowed through the streets and their entrails were dumped in the drainage channels. What a different place today.  Lunch was enjoyed (in spite of all we’d heard) in the "Distillers" pub, which was originally built as a private bank Charles Hill & Son, before we made our way to Charterhouse for our afternoon tour.

Built on the site of a plague pit this Carthusian monastery was founded in 1371 with a Prior and 24 monks. In 1535 the monks fell foul of Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy and several were put to death at Tyburn. The land was then given to Lord North who constructed a fine Tudor mansion. The mansion then changed hands several times eventually being bought by Thomas Sutton. Reputedly the country’s wealthiest commoner he used his fortune to endow a charitable trust for the education of boys and the care of elderly gentlemen. Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse - not a medical institution but a place of hospitality and learning. The school developed and moved to its present site in Godalming in Surrey in 1872. The hospital was severely bomb damaged in the Second World War but has now been restored and is home to 48 elderly gentlemen, the Brothers of Charterhouse. Anita and Roger had a friend living here and they had arranged for two of the Brothers to give us a tour. The Brother who led the tour was a retired actor and his eloquence and humour made the experience very relaxed and interesting for us. We saw the cells of the original monks who lived in isolation and wandered the beautiful and peaceful grounds – a real oasis in the centre of London. The Chapel and Dining Room together with the Great Hall were full of antiques and beautiful paintings and we could only marvel at the gentility and atmosphere of such of such elegant surroundings. A truly fascinating afternoon and our thanks to Roger and Anita for making it possible for us to enjoy such and interesting visit to Charterhouse. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)


Top left: Monk's cell

Top centre: The drinking fountain

Top right: Tomb of Thomas Sutton

Above: St Bartholomew the Great

Right: The entrance to Chaterhouse and the magnificent ceiling

Below left: Waiting to enter Charterhouse

Below right: Distiller's pub

Bottom left: Smithfield Market

Bottom right: The dining hall


JULY - Our walk started from Holland Park tube station passing some very prestigious-looking houses where well known residents had once lived. There were blue plaques on many buildings referring to the previous occupants. The first President of the State of Israel and the King of the Zulus, to name but two. Many prosperous 19th Century artists had made this area their home and their influence on the architecture can still be seen. One, the Tower House, looked a fitting setting for Rapunzel and one can imagine her letting her hair down from the top window. We eventually came to Holland Park which during 1800s was not a safe place to walk, but today is an absolute delight. The gardens are kept in pristine condition and surprised us all. Holland Park House was a Jacobean manor house built in 1599 as Cope’s Castle, by Sir William Cope who is said to still haunt the house. The house was bombed during the war and partial restoration took place in the 1950s when the east end was rebuilt as a youth hostel and the ballroom became a café. The house is now the home of “Opera in the Park” and we could see what a splendid venue it must be. We had a choice for lunch as Marco Pierre White has a restaurant here but we all opted for the more modest cafeteria, which made a welcome break. After lunch we continued our walk through the more formal gardens. The roses were magnificent and I particularly liked the Japanese Kyoto garden. This garden alone was well worth a visit with its waterfall and stream amid the lovely trees and plants. Leaving this we passed the statue of the 3rd Lord Holland and we left the park by the entrance near the Greek Embassy. It was then back to Holland Park tube and the journey home after having had a delightful few hours in the park. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)

Top left: Mulberry House

Top centre: The Tower House

Top right: Opera in the park

Below left: Covered walk with murals

Below centre: Formal Dutch Garden

Below right: The Belvedere - Marco Polo White

Bottom left: Kyoto Garden

Bottom centre: Woodland Walk

Bottom Right: Entrance to Holland Park


JUNE - We travelled by train and Underground to Notting Hill where our first stop was for coffee. Anita explained to us that the origins of the name were not clear although back in 1356 there were references to Knottynghull. The gate refers to the tollgate that used to operate on the road between 1769-1864. The area is quite upmarket and was developed in the main by the Ladbroke family for middle class housing. Ladbroke square had the largest private communal garden and we caught glimpses through the bushes. The streets and terraces showed signs of very gracious living. We visited St John’s church, built in neo Gothic style and home to some very beautiful modern icons. From Ladbroke Grove we walked down Lansdowne Crescent which used to have the hotel where Jimi Hendrix took his fatal overdose.

We then walked down hill to an area called Hippodrome Place where Anita told us of John Whyte, an entrepreneur, who had leased land from the Ladbrokes in 1836 with a view to creating a racing emporium bigger than Epsom or Ascot. His idea was that spectators would view the races from the top of the hill looking down. It was a bad choice because the land was heavy clay and often waterlogged causing terrible injuries to the horses. The venture, also, brought in undesirable people and the hostility and opposition from local folk eventually closed it in 1841.

Walking on we then came to an area which had had a bad reputation for being home to drunkards, prostitutes and the very poorest in society. The only bright spot was St Francis church which has now been restored and is well looked after. It was hard to imagine that in the early 1800s there had been pigs kept here. The farmers had moved here when they were forced out of land around Marble Arch when development took place. The pigs were in the ratio of 1 pig to 3 people. The area was cleaned up after an epidemic of cholera. The area was also home to a large Irish immigrant population who had worked in the nearby potteries and brickfields.  We passed the last remaining bottle kiln which looks completely out of place now.

The area became popular with film makers and the proximity to Gaumont & Ealing Studios made it the venue for many well-known films such as The Blue Lamp and The Lavender Hill Mob.

Our walk had brought us to the Portobello Road and Anita explained how it got its name. This came from Puerto Bello, a port in the Gulf of Mexico that exported treasures to Spain. The British under the command of Admiral Edward Vernon captured the port in 1739 and many streets in the British Empire were named after Vernon and Puerto Bello.

At this point we broke for lunch. During this break the weather deteriorated and after a short walk up the road in the rain we called it a day and headed for home. Anita has plans for us to walk the “North Side” later in the year – we all look forward to discovering more about this part of London. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)


Top left: A fine mews

Above: Icon in St John's Church

Top right: Lansdowne Crescent

Left: Imparting more information outside the Hippodrome

Right: The Bottle Kiln

Bottom left: The Portobello Road

Below: Plaque commemorating the first printer

Bottom right: St Francis Church courtyard




MAY - Meeting at Liverpool Street we caught the bus to Holborn Viaduct. Designed by William Heywood to bridge Farringdon Street which follows the valley of the River Fleet, the bridge is home to bronze statues erected in 1886 depicting Commerce and Agriculture on the south side and Science and Fine Arts on the north. Queen Victoria opened both Viaduct Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge on the same day – she would recognise the Viaduct today but would be astounded by the change to Blackfriars.

We then visited St Andrew’s church to see the tomb of Thomas Coram, founder of The Foundling Hospital in Coram Fields and the memorial to William Marsden, the surgeon who founded the Royal Free Hospital after he found a young woman dying on the steps of the church.

Next stop was coffee after which we gathered at Holborn Circus where Anita explained the changes in the area and told us of further plans for enhancement to help the flow of traffic and help prevent the high number of accidents which happen here. The statue, of Prince Albert on horseback raising his hat to the City of London, in the middle of the road is destined to be re-sited and will certainly ease the situation.

We then walked through to Fleet Street and some of us were astonished at the changes and developments that had taken place over the last 20 or so years. We also saw the statue of John Wilkes who was a ”champion of free speech”,  a  Lord Mayor of London in 1774 and a defender of the establishment in the Gordon Riots of 1780.  Turning into Fleet Street we saw St Dunstan’s in the West and the statue of Queen Elizabeth I by William Kerwin in 1586 moved from its original site at Ludgate when the gate was demolished for road widening. St Dunstan’s is well worth visiting and the surrounding buildings have a wealth of interest, Coutts & Co, bank to the Queen and Hoare’s bank with its original sign to name but two. Walking back down Fleet Street we turned into Magpie Lane where White Tiles on the wall tell a potted history of Fleet Street’s publishers. We also had our own Fleet Street Historian in the guise of Bob Dwyer-Joyce, who amused us with various anecdotes from his working life with The Daily Telegraph. Turning into Whitefriars Street we saw the remains of the 13th Century Monastery of the Carmelite order of White Friars, so called because they wore white cloaks over their brown habits .All that remains is part of the crypt preserved behind glass. This, again, is a most interesting part of London with a surprise around every corner.

After breaking for lunch Anita had arranged for us to visit the printer’s church, St Brides on Fleet Street. We enjoyed a tour of sheer fascination and saw sights which are indescribable! I would recommend any U3A member to visit the church and take one of these tours for themselves. I promise you would not be disappointed. They occur regularly throughout the year. Our thanks must go to Roger and Anita who made this possible for us and who had organised an interesting day full of interesting facts about our capital city.  (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)


Top left: White tiles

Above: Inside St Brides

Top right: The crypst of the Carmelite Monastery

Left: Prince Albert raises his hat

Right: Badge of honour

Bottom left: St Dunstans

Below: Plaque commemorating the first printer

Bottom right: Telegraph building


MARCH - Our group assembled at Liverpool Street for the start of the 2011 season of walks. Anita welcomed us back and we then caught the bus to London Bridge Station. Our first stop was at the Shard, still under construction and reputed to be Europe’s largest building. Scheduled to be finished in 2012 at a cost of approx, £400 million it will be almost double the height of St Paul’s and seriously compromise the view. We will return when the viewing galleries are opened in 2013. Walking on through Borough Market and along the Thames to the Wherrymans seat, the last remaining seat that the Ferrymen used, when the narrow seats were situated all along the South bank of the Thames. Our coffee stop was The Globe Theatre where the staff made us most welcome and had our coffee all ready and waiting for us.

Suitably refreshed we then carried on along New Globe Walk and into Park Street. Here they are starting on the new extension to the Tate Modern. Hoardings surrounding the building work show some fascinating images produced by Swedish artist Martin Karlsson who has created a display based on the works of Gustave Dore, who’s etchings of London in 1872, have been brought up-to-date by Karlsson showing the changes to London in this modern age. We then visited the Tate Modern to see the display AI WEIWEI SUNFLOWER SEEDS and see the video showing how they were created. The video invites us to look more closely at the “Made in China” phenomenon and the geopolitics of cultural and economic changes today. Most of us were unimpressed with the display which has estimated to be worth £300 million. Although one could see the value to the town in China where the production of the seeds kept the town in work it seems to have been an extortionate amount of money to have been spent on such a project. Our lunch break was in the Gallery and some of also went to see the Picasso painting which an unknown buyer has bought for around £65 million.

Leaving the gallery we walked to the Wobbly Bridge. Anita explained to us the renovations to Blackfriars Station which is the only station in the world  built across a river. It will be able to handle 12-car trains as from December 2011. Another interesting fact she gave us was the explanation of the new sport of “Tower Running”. The idea is to find a building with enough stairs to challenge the fittest of us and then run up them as fast as possible. One sport we will give a miss! 

Crossing the bridge we made our way back to St Paul’s, past the Salvation Army HQ and the College of Arms, which Anita told us was well worth a visit. We saw the drinking fountain recently re-sited as part of a plan to reintroduce drinking fountains and reduce the number of plastic bottles strewn about our streets. I wonder . . . We walked on past Bracken House with the ornate clock over the door showing the face of Churchill.

We crossed over to ” ONE NEW CHANGE”,  a new shopping development by architect Jean Nouvel. Well worth visiting if only to take the lift to the roof area where the views were stupendous. We were looking out straight to the Dome of St Paul’s. Our walk over, we made our way back to the station and home. The weather had been kind to us, we all felt that spring had arrived and our day had been interesting and stimulating as usual. A good start to 2011. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)

Top left: The Shard, under construction

Top centre: Images by Swedish artist Martin Karlsson on hoardings round the Tate

Top  right: Display of sunflower seeds in the Tate.

Left: Drinking fountain recently re-sited.

Below centre: View of St Pauls Cathedral from wobbly bridge.

Right: View of St Pauls from the roof of the new shopping centre.

Below left: The wobbly bridge.

Below centre: Bracken House.

Below right: Salvation Army HQ and the College of Arms.


Go To Brentwood U3A Home Page
Back to ALL London Walks

Page last updated : Tuesday, 23 June 2020